March 3, 2021

Cassidy, Cramer, Colleagues Introduce Fair Access to Banking Act

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) led their colleagues in introducing the “Fair Access to Banking Act” today, a bill to prevent discrimination by banks and financial service providers against constitutionally-protected industries and law-abiding businesses.

“It’s unacceptable for banks to target people and industries,” said Dr. Cassidy. “This legislation ensures critical employers in Louisiana like oil and gas development are treated fairly.”

“Fairness matters,” said Senator Cramer. “There is no place in our society for discrimination, and big banks are no exception. Financial service providers do not have the right to circumvent the Constitution or the law to create de-facto bans on legally-compliant businesses like energy producers or firearms manufacturers when they believe it is politically convenient. Our legislation makes it illegal to do so and imposes serious consequences on those who choose to violate the law.” 

As stated in the legislation, 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:

  • Prohibit banks and credit unions with over $10 billion in total consolidated assets, or their subsidiaries, from refusing to do business with any legally-compliant person;
  • Prevent payment card networks from discriminating against any person who is in compliance with the law 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; and
  • 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 this 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 Fair Access to Banking Act has the support of one-fourth of the Senate, with Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), John Kennedy (R-LA), Steve Daines (R-MT), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Rick Scott (R-FL), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), John Hoeven (R-ND), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), John Barrasso (R-WY), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Mike Braun (R-IN), Tim Scott (R-SC),  Tom Cotton (R-AR), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Josh Hawley (R-MO), John Cornyn (R-TX), James Lankford (R-OK), Roger Marshall (R-KS), James Risch (R-ID), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) joining as original cosponsors.

The bill has a wide array of industry support as well, including endorsements from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), National Rifle Association (NRA), Kentucky Coal Association, Lignite Energy Council, National Mining Association, National Association of Wholesale Distributors, and the Day 1 Alliance.

Click here for bill text.