WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) this week joined her colleagues in cosponsoring the Fair Access to Banking Act, legislation that would prevent discrimination by banks and financial service providers against constitutionally-protected industries and law-abiding businesses.

“At the end of the day, if banks pick and choose which industries they’ll work with based on political reasons, the men and women who work in those particular industries end up being the ones hurt,” Senator Capito said. “This commonsense legislation would ensure employers and workers in the energy sector or firearms manufacturing are protected from political activism by financial institutions.”

As stated in the legislation, which was authored by Senator Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), the purpose of the Fair Access to Banking Act is to protect fair access to financial services and to ensure banks operate in a safe and sound manner, basing their judgements and decisions on impartial, individualized risk-based analysis developed through empirical data and evaluated under quantifiable standards.

If enacted, this bill would:

  • Penalize banks and credit unions with over $10 billion in total consolidated assets, or their subsidiaries, if they refuse to do business with any legally-compliant person who meets the criteria described above.
  • Prevent payment card networks from discriminating against any qualified and legally-compliant person because of political or reputational considerations.
  • Codify the core requirements found in the Trump administration’s Fair Access Final Rule.
  • Require qualified banks to provide written justification for why they are denying a person financial services.
  • Punish providers who fail to comply with the law by disqualifying them from using discount window lending programs, terminating their status as an insured depository institution or insured credit union, or imposing a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation.

The need for the legislation is driven by the recent actions of some of the largest United States banks who are using their economic standing to discriminate against energy producers. Last year, five of the country’s largest banks announced they will not provide loans or credit to support oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge even though Congress explicitly authorized it. In the fall, JP Morgan Chase declared it would refuse financial services to coal producers, and Bank of America began a politically-motivated effort to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from its financing activities by 2050, an effort directly targeting producers of reliable American energy.

Discrimination by financial service providers also extends to industries protected by the Second Amendment, with banks like Capital One including “ammunitions, firearms, or firearm parts” in its prohibited payments section, and payment services like Apple Pay and PayPal denying their services for transactions involving firearms or ammunition.

In response to these developments, the Trump administration created the Fair Access Rule to prevent these examples and other acts of discrimination, but the rule’s implementation has since been paused under President Biden.

The full text of the bill can be found here.

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