The owner of a Brooksville, Florida, pawn shop was shocked when he recently received a letter from his bank telling him he must close his account immediately. He said he feels singled out because he sells guns, but the bank said it’s not the guns, it’s the pawn business that resulted in their decision.
In a letter dated March 20, SunTrust Bank informed Steve Champion, who has owned American Gun & Pawn for about a year, that their professional relationship “no longer meets the bank’s corporate business objectives.” Champion was given a deadline by which to withdraw his money from the account and the letter confirmed that the bank’s decision is final and cannot be reversed.
The small business owner told WFLA that he initially thought the letter was some sort of a hoax, but it wasn’t. In fact, Champion called SunTrust’s customer service in an effort to get more information, and a representative confirmed that the letters, which she referred to as “gun letters,” were being sent out to gun shops across the country.
But Champion said he owns a legitimate business that is licensed through the federal government and the fact that he’s being singled out is unacceptable. Champion said he told the bank that he will tell anyone who will listen about the company refusing to do service with him.
Nonetheless, SunTrust spokesman Michael McCoy said the company stands behind their decision, but also said the decision to close Champion’s account was not based solely on the fact that he sells guns, but more so on the fact that the guns are sold out of a pawn shop. McCoy confirmed that in August the company decided to no longer provide banking services for certain businesses, including pawn shops.
But the bank received some backlash after the decision came to light, resulting in the decision to release a statement explaining their new policy.
SunTrust is pro-small business, and we are proud to serve more than 400,000 small business clients. SunTrust fully supports all of the rights that Americans are granted under the Constitution, and we continue to maintain banking relationships with licensed firearms dealers. It is consistent with long-standing industry practice to review relationships to ensure they satisfy a range of business and risk considerations. We have decided to discontinue banking relationships with three types of businesses – specifically payday lenders, pawn shops and dedicated check-cashers – due to compliance requirements. We remain committed to serving the needs of our communities while meeting the standards of our industry.
Champion said he has near perfect credit and no debt, and that there’s no reason for the bank to make such a decision.
“They’re discriminating,” he said.