Never mind trade wars, Wyoming is in a bank battle

WYOMING – Retaliation was swift and sure as Wyoming Treasurer Mark Gordon announced state funds would be “closed for business” to Bank of the West after the San Francisco-based bank disclosed earlier this week it would no longer do business with coal, oil and natural gas projects.

Earlier this week, Bank of the West announced, in addition to severing ties with any companies in the tobacco industry, it “will no longer do business with companies whose main activity is exploring, producing, distributing, marketing or trading oil and gas from shale and/or tar sands.”

The news did not play well in the Cowboy State where some of the bank’s 600 nationwide locations can be found in several Wyoming communities including Casper, Cheyenne, Laramie, Gillette, Riverton, Lander, Kemmerer, Sheridan, Cody, Rawlins, Rock Springs, Saratoga, Worland, Meeteetse, Big Piney, and Jackson.

In the wake of Bank of the West’s controversial announcement that they will no longer be funding fracking, coal, oil and natural gas projects, Treasurer Gordon announced today that he will deny any applications from the bank to place certain state funds into their institution.

“The Bank of the West has said they will no longer fund coal, oil and natural gas projects—key components to the Wyoming economy and Wyoming way of life,” Gordon said. “Well, under my watch, Wyoming investment dollars will not be placed with the Bank of the West. If the Bank of the West applies for the next round of the Time Deposit Open Account (TDOA) money, or in the future, I will deny it.”

The Time Deposit Open Account (TDOA) program, which is operated by the State Treasurer’s Office, places state funds into financial institutions throughout the state, allowing those institutions to use the money for loans to their customers. Over the course of the program, Bank of the West has applied for and received $63 million in TDOA monies. The next round of applications will be decided in December.

“Bank of the West needs to hear this, if they do not support Wyoming, our economy and our working families, then I don’t support them,” Gordon said. “I am making this decision today as Treasurer. My next step will be to ask my colleagues on the State Board of Deposits to review the Bank of the West status as a public depository for the State of Wyoming.”

Bank of the West has responded on social media, stating, “While we’ve taken a stance on fracking, tobacco, and arctic drilling, we are neither anti-energy nor anti-oil and gas.”

Bank of the West is a financial services company based out of San Francisco, California. It is a subsidiary of the French company, BNP Paribas. It has more than 600 branches and offices in the Midwest and Western United States.

On its website, Bank of the West states: “We’re investing where we feel we can make the most impact, like advancing diversity and women entrepreneurship programs, financing for more small businesses, promoting programs for sustainable energy, and withdrawing support from companies and business activities that are detrimental to our environment and our health. As the bank for a changing world, we’re continually seeking to improve the ways we help our customers, while contributing to more sustainable and equitable growth.”

Gordon added that he would work collaboratively with the State Board of Deposits and state and local entities currently utilizing Bank of the West accounts to ensure a responsible review of the bank’s status as a public depository. He noted the challenges involved with some local entities switching banks in the middle of the fiscal year, but pledged to work with individual communities through any transition.

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