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Wells Fargo's relationship with NRA is 'declining': CEO

FILE PHOTO: Wells Fargo Bank branch is seen in New York City, U.S., March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

(Reuters) - Wells Fargo & Co's WFC.N relationship with the National Rifle Association (NRA) is "declining," Chief Executive Charles Scharf told investors on Tuesday.

“I don’t think we participate any longer in the organization’s line of credit and mortgage loan commitments,” Scharf said at Wells Fargo’s annual shareholder meeting, adding that the bank’s exposure to the firearms lobbying group was minimal.

Wells Fargo, the fourth-largest U.S. bank, has been quietly winding down its relationship with the NRA for nearly two years, a bank spokesman said. But Tuesday’s comments marked a change in tone at the San Francisco-based lender, which has been known as one of the largest financiers of the firearms sector, even as other large bank rivals backed away.

Past Wells Fargo executives defended the bank’s relationship with the NRA and lending policies, saying that gun violence solutions should come from the government not banks.

Wells Fargo’s continued relationship with the organization after 2018 caused it to lose its mortgage partnership with the American Federation of Teachers, a major U.S. union.

Major finance firms including Bank of America Corp BAC.N and Citigroup Inc C.N placed limits on their lending to gun makers and retailers in 2018 in response to a widespread backlash after a school shooting in Florida.

Last year Wells Fargo said it would invest more than $10 million over three years to support nonpartisan research on gun violence prevention.

“That we’ll continue to support as we move forward,” Scharf said on Tuesday.

Reporting by Imani Moise; Editing by Alistair Bell and Leslie Adler

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