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Big guns must be OK with Citibank

Despite Citibank’s recently publicized policy of not doing business
with firms “that manufacture or sell military weapons, military
munitions or firearms,” new information indicates the New York-based
global banking giant may be selective about enforcing its own policy.

Though company spokesmen have denied Citibank pursues “business
relationships” with such firms, a newly discovered press release tells a
different story. Dated Nov. 30, 1999, the release states that Sanford
I. Weill, 66, chairman and co-chief executive officer of Citigroup, was
elected to the board of directors of United Technologies

a company that manufactures Pratt & Whitney engines for jet fighters, as
well as Sikorsky helicopters for the military and other “aerospace and
defense products.” Citigroup is the parent company of Citibank and

According to the report, United Technologies Corporation Chairman and
CEO George David “noted the long-time ties between Citigroup and UTC,
and its predecessor, United Aircraft & Transport. Gordon Rentschler,
then chairman of National City Bank of New York, now Citibank, was
Frederick Rentschler’s brother, a founder and a former chairman of
United Aircraft & Transport. Gordon Rentschler also sat on United’s
Board, as have five other senior Citibank executives.”

Twisted gun barrel artwork on the United Nations’ grounds in New York,
with giant Citibank building looming in the background. Photo by WND
contributing reporter Ed Oliver.

Weill, who became chairman and co-chief executive officer of
Citigroup Inc. in October 1998, was also hailed by David in the report
as “one of the best known and most respected businessmen in America,”
and someone who “brings to UTC’s board of directors a lifetime of
distinguished business experience.”

The controversy over Citibank’s anti-gun firm policy began last week
when WorldNetDaily reported
that a small Las Vegas-based firearms organization, the Nevada Pistol
Academy, had its three-day-old business account suddenly closed by a
local Citibank branch. The denial came after the Citibank branch manager
remembered the global corporation’s policy forbidding any business
relationships with groups or companies dealing in weapons.

According to a letter sent to academy manager Chris Lorenzo, the
local bank branch said Citibank had a corporate-wide policy prohibiting
branches from “maintaining accounts for businesses that deal in
weapons.” Lorenzo was accidentally allowed to open the account, said
Citibank spokesman Mark Rodgers, but three days later the branch
corrected the error and sent Lorenzo a “Notice of Account Closure,”
citing the policy as the reason.

The policy was then confirmed to WorldNetDaily by Rodgers as corporate rather than local banking policy. But Rodgers
also said, specifically, “Citibank’s consumer business has a
longstanding policy of not engaging in financial relationships with
businesses that manufacture or sell military weapons, military munitions
or firearms.”

As in the past, repeated attempts by WorldNetDaily to solicit
comments or clarifications about the policy from Citibank’s corporate
public relations department in New York City went unanswered.

For his part, however, Nevada Pistol Academy manager Chris Lorenzo
told WorldNetDaily on Wednesday he sees obvious “hypocrisy” in
Citibank’s decision to conduct business with UTC but not his company. He
added, though, that he wasn’t upset with the global financial giant and
said he would “defend to the death Citibank’s right to refuse business
from anyone.”

“I’m not ‘out to get’ Citibank,” Lorenzo said, “and they’re free to
do business with whomever they want. That’s the American way. However,
if they choose not to do business with firearms or weapons companies, I
also think people have a right to know that beforehand.”

Lorenzo said he was unsure about earlier reports that the National
Rifle Association was investigating whether or not to file a lawsuit
against Citibank based on federal banking laws. The NRA could not be
reached for comment.

But he said he was emphatic about a few things. “I don’t want their
(Citibank’s) money, and I’m not doing this to get back at them, either.”

Rather, he believes that if enough notoriety comes from this
incident, Citibank may either be compelled to change its policy, or
other banks and firms “presently considering a similar policy might
change their minds.”

In the fallout from Citibank’s decision, pro-gun activists around the
country have already begun to urge a boycott of the company. They are
asking pro-gun business owners not to accept Citibank credit cards and
asking all pro-gun supporters to “cut and return” their Citibank cards
to the company.

Lorenzo said shooters at the Nevada Pistol Academy “could shoot their
Citibank credit cards for free if they want to.”

However, Lorenzo said that Citibank was too large — “even if all gun
owners tore up their cards” — to be affected much by the anticipated
loss of business from a boycott. “They’re a huge, huge corporation.”

Yet, “banking is a competitive business,” he added, “so what’s to
stop some other financial institution from learning a lesson here and
actually soliciting the business of gun firms and pro-gun Americans? I
think that’s what’s going to happen — Citibank made a bad business
decision and someone else is going to learn from that.”

Lorenzo also praised the Las Vegas Citibank branch manager, whom he
did not name, for his actions.

“The guy told me, very politely, that he simply forgot about
Citibank’s policy,” said Lorenzo. “But the corporate story that this guy
is just some sort of renegade bank manager is absurd — it’s just not
true. He was very apologetic when he remembered the policy, and I just
hope Citibank doesn’t make him a scapegoat.”

Sam Cohen, a gun-rights activist based in Massachusetts who has been
instrumental in calling for the boycott of Citibank, disagrees. He
believes if enough gun-rights supporters make the commitment to boycott,
“we can hurt (Citibank).”

“When gun owners decided to boycott
Levi Strauss because of its alliance with PAX, a noted anti-gun group, I don’t think it’s
coincidental that the boycott was soon followed by Levi’s lowest sales
records in nine years,” Cohen said. “And after Rosie O’Donnell, the
spokesperson for K-Mart came out and basically called all gun owners
criminals, the resultant boycott of K-Mart saw Rosie replaced (by
country music singers The Judds) and their stock slip from $18 to a
four-year low of $8 per share.

“I respect Mr. Lorenzo’s opinion, but I just think it might be a bit
misguided,” Cohen said. “There are 70 million gun owners in this country
and that’s significant.”