(Reuters) – Citigroup Inc has discriminated against the firearms sector, the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said, making a decision that “has the effect” of halting the bank’s ability to underwrite most municipal bond offerings in Texas.
Republicans have been ramping up pressure on the finance industry over what they say are their increasingly aggressive environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices.
Texas enacted a law in 2021 that prohibited government contracts with entities that discriminated against the firearms industry.
“Citi’s designation as an SB-19 discriminator has the effect of halting its ability to underwrite most municipal bond offerings in Texas,” Paxton’s office told Reuters, referring to the law.
Bloomberg News first reported the news, citing a letter that Leslie Brock, assistant attorney general chief of the public finance division, distributed to lawyers on Wednesday.
It had been determined that Citigroup had a policy that discriminated against a firearms entity or firearms trade association, Brock wrote in the letter, reported Bloomberg.
“Therefore, until further notice, we will not approve any public security issued on or after today’s date in which Citigroup purchases or underwrites the public security, or in which Citigroup is otherwise a party to a covered contract relating to the public security,” according to the letter.
The report also added that a Citi spokesperson had said the company did not discriminate against the firearms sector and that it believed it was complying with the Texas law.
In 2018, Citigroup put restrictions on new retail business clients that sell guns, requiring the clients to pass background checks. That followed a high school shooting in Florida in February of that year in which 17 people died.
Citigroup did not respond to a request from Reuters for comment. Paxton’s office did not respond to a request for further comment.
(Reporting by Lavanya Ahire and Akanksha Khushi in Bengaluru; Editing by Bradley Perrett)