WASHINGTON – After initially declining this weekend to weigh in on President Trump’s travel ban regarding refugees and others traveling from certain Muslim nations, Citigroup said Monday that it is worried about the order’s impact on its employees and customers.
“As a U.S. company and the world’s most global financial institution, we are concerned about the message the executive order sends, as well as the impact immigration policies could have on our ability to serve our clients and contribute to growth,” Citi CEO Michael Corbat wrote in a message sent Monday to all employees. “We have been advising colleagues who could be affected and will continue to support them and their families.”
In doing so, Citi becomes the first large commercial U.S. bank to publicly and directly object to the ban. On Sunday, JPMorgan Chase officials reacted to the ban by taking a cautious stance, simultaneously lauding efforts to keep the U.S. safe while emphasizing the need for diversity.
Corbat’s message echoed those words while also going further by explicitly raising concerns about the ban.
“We are proud of Citi’s diversity and the fact that we hail from over 100 countries,” Corbat said. “We encourage the leaders of the United States to find the right balance between protecting the country and its longstanding role as an open and welcoming society.”
Bank of America declined to comment on Sunday, while a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo, which has less of an international presence than the other three banks, said it was still reviewing the order.
The investment bank Goldman Sachs, meanwhile, delivered a far blunter message to employees in an voice mail: “This is not a policy we support,” CEO Lloyd Blankfein said, according to Bloomberg News.
The travel ban has been assailed by critics, including some Republicans, as hastily written and likely to alienate key allies in the war on terror. President Trump has insisted the executive order is not a Muslim ban, though he called for such a ban on the campaign trail. The travel ban has sparked protests worldwide and multiple orders from different courts.
The battle illustrates the difficulty for the large banks in the Trump era. While they largely support his deregulatory agenda – Trump again vowed on Monday to “do a number” on the Dodd-Frank Act – his policies in other areas, including immigration and foreign affairs, may hurt their interests. Speaking out against Trump carries its own risks, however, as the president has shown a willingness to publicly target companies on social media.
Several other industries have spoken out against the travel ban, including the tech sector and, on Monday, Ford Motor Co.