BB&T Corp. has joined Wells Fargo & Co. in opting to close the campaign accounts of the Democratic challenger for agriculture commissioner in Florida.
The issue for both banks is that Nicole “Nikki” Fried, a Fort Lauderdale-based lawyer, appears to be her prominent lobbyist role in attempting to expand access to medical marijuana in Florida.
According to the Associated Press, Fried played “a crucial role” in the passing of House Bill 307 in 2016 relating to the use of medical marijuana for those with terminal illness.
Fried’s campaign manager Alicia Stallworth told the Miami Herald on Thursday that BB&T informed the campaign on Aug. 29 that its accounts had to be closed within 30 days.
Two days later, Stallworth said the closing date was moved up to Sept. 5.
BB&T spokesman David White declined Friday to discuss specifics about the Fried campaign accounts, citing client privacy policies.
“While BB&T has no position on the issue of marijuana or the ongoing discussion regarding its legalization, we must continue to abide by all applicable laws and regulations as a federally regulated financial institution,” While said.
“While many states have enacted changes, federal law prohibits the use, sale and possession of all forms of cannabis in the United States.”
Stallworth did not identify which bank the campaign has switched its account to, but it plans to announce more details Monday.
Fried’s campaign could not be reached for immediate comment Friday about the BB&T decision and has not posted a statement on its website, as it did regarding the Wells Fargo closed accounts decision.
Wells Fargo made a similar decision on Fried campaign funds Aug. 3 with the accounts closing Aug. 19. The bank cited a need to “oversee and manage banking risks” as part of its decision.
The Miami newspaper reported the “pressure for banks in the state to shun medical marijuana business is high because Florida hosts more international customers and sees more potential instances of money laundering than the average state.”
The newspaper also reported federal data released in June shows that as of March 31, 411 banks and credit unions across the country were “actively” banking with marijuana businesses.
The campaign said its account was opened June 13 at Wells Fargo, seven days after she filed to run for office.
The campaign’s website statement calls the Wells Fargo decision “a never before seen action by a major financial institution” given the bank’s reasoning was the campaign’s “political platform” that included advocacy for “patient access to medical marijuana.”
Fried called the Wells Fargo decision an “arbitrary, unprecedented action against the fundamental rights to speech of a candidate for public office.”
According to a background supplied by Fried, a Wells Fargo representative “reached out to the campaign via email (on July 11) saying they had ‘uncovered some information regarding the customers(sic) political platform and that they are advocating for expanded patient access to medical marijuana.’
Wells Fargo asked if the campaign would receive “funds received from lobbyists from the medical marijuana industry in any capacity?”
The campaign responded July 17 by answering Wells Fargo’s questions and “additionally telling the bank of Fried’s own professional representation of the medical marijuana industry.”