NRA V. GOV. CUOMO
ABOUT THE NRA'S CASE
The NRA is involved in a First Amendment lawsuit against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and other defendants that has become one of the highest-profile cases of its kind.
The lawsuit arises from a series of public statements and enforcement actions by Gov. Cuomo and New York’s chief financial regulator, the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS), during 2017 and 2018. At Gov. Cuomo’s direction, DFS issued official regulatory guidance to all banks and insurance companies doing business in New York, urging them to “discontinue . . . [business] arrangements” with the NRA and other so-called “gun promotion” organizations.
Simultaneously, DFS pursued high-profile investigations of several insurance-industry firms that did business with the NRA, exacting multimillion-dollar penalties for purported regulatory violations. Importantly, DFS required that the firms forswear future business with the NRA — but not other organizations whose insurance programs exhibited the same features.
American Banker magazine interviewed multiple finance-industry sources, who confirmed that DFS’s actions had a chilling effect. The article quoted a banker who said that it’s “hard to know what the rules are” or whom to "do business with." The article noted that such regulatory guidelines can “compel institutions to cease catering to legal businesses” based on apparent political bias.
The NRA believes and alleges that these actions amount to a “blacklisting campaign” — an effort to intimidate the NRA’s potential business partners, choke off its access to financial services, and retaliate against it based on the viewpoint of its speech.
The NRA commenced its lawsuit on May 11, 2018, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York. On August 3, 2018, the State filed its Motion to Dismiss, followed by a hearing in Albany, New York, on September 10, 2018. On November 6, 2018, U.S. District Judge Thomas J. McAvoy issued his highly-anticipated decision, which upheld the NRA’s First Amendment freedom-of-speech claims — the crux of its complaint. The court also upheld the NRA’s equal protection claims.
James Freeman, an editor of The Wall Street Journal editorial page, writes of the decision, “...no elected official in the country has more aggressively sought to limit free speech rights than Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Now he will have to answer for it in court…. There is an enormous interest for all Americans in making sure that a politician like Mr. Cuomo cannot abuse his authority to silence law-abiding citizens with whom he disagrees.”
The NRA claims to have acquired compelling evidence from Lloyd’s America, Inc. (LAI) that Vullo and DFS “leveraged DFS’s considerable power… to inflict targeted harm on ‘gun programs’ – irrespective of whether those programs violated the law.” The NRA claims that it was only able to obtain the documents by promising to file them under seal. Therefore, several exhibits that accompany the gun group’s court filing are filed under seal.
According to the proposed Second Amended Complaint, intent on inflicting damage on the NRA, “Vullo met with senior executives of Lloyd’s [of London] and LAI, and presented Defendants’ views on gun control and their desire to leverage their powers to combat the availability of firearms, including
specifically by weakening the NRA.”
The Association also claims to have documented evidence that proves the NRA was treated more harshly than other regulated entities – singled out to weaken gun-rights advocacy in the State of New York. The NRA seeks permission to replead selective enforcement claims against Defendants.
“The NRA has troubling new information that underscores the true motives of the State’s actions,” says William A. Brewer III, partner at Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors and counsel to the NRA. “Our client is determined to bring this evidence to light – to expose the backroom meetings and communications
that were essential to Defendant’s scheme to silence and harm the NRA by any means necessary.”