Bank of America has told its senior staff not to use the word ‘Brexit’ when talking with clients in an attempt to avoid the debate over the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU).
Bank of America (BofA) — a multinational banking and financial services corporation — last week warned its managers “not to provide opinions, not to influence voters, not to assume a particular result and not to engage in campaigning” ahead of Britain’s referendum in June on whether to leave the EU, reports the Financial Times.
It has been explained that the bank’s advice is “not an attempt to muzzle or control staff” but instead an attempt to avoid the limelight shone on some other corporate backers, and to respect UK electoral law. As such BofA has also reversed its position on financing the pro-EU Remain campaign.
Following the lead of Goldman Sachs — the investment bank which in January donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to those fighting to keep the UK in the EU — BofA announced in February it had made plans to donate nearly £100,000 to the campaign for Britain to stay in the EU.
In doing so they would have lined up with other U.S. banking giants such as JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley, but three people close to the situation in BofA told the Financial Times that is no longer the case.
BofA initially declined to comment but a source said it was concerned that the term ‘Brexit’ somehow implied bias against voting to leave the EU. It has not, however, stopped the bank using it before now.
MarketWatch reports a February report from BofA which set out risks to American companies posed by a Leave vote. Published by Joseph Quinlan — head of market and thematic strategy at BofA’s Global Wealth & Investment Management— it featured the word ‘Brexit’ both in its title and text.
Yesterday BofA did comment. It confirmed it had issued guidance “to help employees and the company ensure compliance with relevant legal requirements during the referendum period” but said it had “not issued any authorised instruction to staff regarding the use of the term ‘Brexit’ when talking to clients – that should be determined by the context in which it is used.”
On the same day the bank commented on the internal guidance, BofA currency analysts published a note which advised clients “short the euro to hedge for Brexit”. The bank added that its assessment of the potential impact Brexit would have on the financial services sector remains “unchanged”.