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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Strategic CSR - Guns

At first glance, the article in the url below contains an interesting proposal – that the credit card companies prohibit the purchase of guns using their products:
"Here's an idea. What if the finance industry — credit card companies like Visa, Mastercard and American Express; credit card processors like First Data; and banks like JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo — were to effectively set new rules for the sales of guns in America? Collectively, they have more leverage over the gun industry than any lawmaker. And it wouldn't be hard for them to take a stand."
The idea is that, by prohibiting gun sales using Visa and MC, the stores would be faced with either accepting credit cards or selling guns, but could not do both. The effect, the author believes, would be to remove guns from most stores across the country:
"For example, Visa, which published a 71-page paper in 2016 espousing its 'corporate responsibility,' could easily change its terms of service to say that it won't do business with retailers that sell assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, which make semiautomatic rifles fire faster. … If Mastercard were to do the same, assault weapons would be eliminated from virtually every firearms store in America because otherwise the sellers would be cut off from the credit card system."
Although interesting, the logic on which this idea is based is flawed. The author uses Bitcoin as an example of the credit card companies' ability to enact the changes he is proposing:
"There is precedent for credit card issuers to ban the purchase of completely legal products. Just this month, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America banned the use of their cards to buy Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. To be clear: Those three banks won't let you use your credit card to buy Bitcoin, but they will happily let you use it to buy an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle — the same kind of gun used in mass shootings in Parkland; Newtown, Conn.; San Bernardino, Calif.; Las Vegas; and Sutherland Springs, Tex."
But, the primary reason Visa and MC ban Bitcoin purchases is risk mitigation. Bitcoins are a very risky investment. If I use my credit card to buy Bitcoin that then crashes in value, how am I going to repay my debt to the credit card companies? The comparison to purchasing a legal product for regular consumption is not valid (it would only be valid if the credit card companies could be sued if their cards were used to buy guns that later were used in a mass shooting, which is an interesting idea, but another story). If the credit card companies were to take the author's advice and start selecting which legal products to block, their task would never end. Tobacco kills ten times as many people in the U.S. as guns every year, should they prevent those products being bought? Alcohol is another big killer. What about cars, which kill tens of thousands of people every year in the U.S.? Or fast food, candy, or sodas, which all contribute significantly to a variety of health-related issues and premature deaths? The list is potentially endless. Blame is being misapplied here. More specifically, the burden of trying to find a solution is being conveniently shifted. This is not the credit card companies' problem to solve. It is our problem, together, as a society. If anything is to change regarding gun laws in the U.S., it is legislators that will need to take the lead, but that lead will need to come from us. If we say we support such action, then we need to vote for politicians who actually might do something about it. As Thomas Friedman puts it in the article in the second url below:
"… ultimately, nothing will change unless young and old who oppose the N.R.A. run for office, vote, help someone vote, register someone to vote or help fund someone's campaign — so we can threaten the same electoral pain as the National Rifle Association. … This is not about persuading people with better ideas. We tried that. It's about generating raw electoral power and pain."
In short, we need to follow the inspiring leadership of the Parkland, FL high school students most affected by this most recent tragedy and shame politicians into acting. They are a great example of what I would call engaged stakeholders!
Take care
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Congress Fails to Curb Guns. Could Banks?
By Andrew Ross Sorkin
February 20, 2018
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final
By Thomas L. Friedman
February 21, 2018
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final