Chairwoman Waters Sends Letter to the Financial and Commercial Industry Over Russian Disinvestment

Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, sent a letter to trade associations representing thousands of American firms from the financial and commercial industry, requesting detailed information on the actions that America’s financial institutions and businesses have taken to end their relationships and engagements in Russia and with businesses that support the Russian government.

“I have been heartened by how many companies in the financial services industry and in corporate America have taken actions above and beyond those explicitly called for by U.S. sanctions. With varying degrees of withdrawals, iconic American car and airplane giants, accounting and consulting firms, Wall Street firms, and food and entertainment companies that have become household names in Russia have made the decision to voluntarily leave Russia… Even though multiple companies have voluntarily divested from Russia, the Committee currently lacks a clear picture of the extent of these divestments.”

See here for the letter, which is also provided below.

Dear Advocacy Leader[1]:

The American people, their representatives in Congress, the Biden Administration, NATO member countries, and many of our allies and partners around the world are in awe of the heroic resistance and courageous perseverance of the Ukrainian people. Together, we are committed in our collective resolve to support the Ukrainian people against Russian aggression.

Stopping Russia’s ability to wage wanton wars requires us to employ all of the elements of America’s strength, including imposing substantial, multi-layered economic and trade sanctions on the Russian President Putin, the Kremlin, and those who aid Russia and enable it to continue to attack Ukraine and commit countless war crimes.

I have been heartened by how many companies in the financial services industry and in corporate America have taken actions above and beyond those explicitly called for by U.S. sanctions. With varying degrees of withdrawals, iconic American car and airplane giants,[2] accounting and consulting firms,[3] Wall Street firms,[4] and food and entertainment companies that have become household names in Russia[5] have made the decision to voluntarily leave Russia. Having spent years before coming to Congress pushing for an economic boycott to end Apartheid in South Africa, I know that when the full might of the U.S. economy is applied against countries that commit atrocities, we can bring about real and lasting change for the benefit of all.

Earlier last week, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy made a joint address to the United States Congress. President Zelenskyy specifically called on American businesses to withdraw “immediately” from Russian markets, “because Russian markets are flooded with [Ukrainian] blood.” In answer to Zelenskyy’s call, my Committee passed five bills—four of which were bipartisan—to further isolate Russia from the global economy. I will continue to work in a bipartisan manner on legislation related to punishing Russia and providing relief to the people of Ukraine.

Even though multiple companies have voluntarily divested from Russia, the Committee currently lacks a clear picture of the extent of these divestments. To that end, I am requesting detailed information on the significant actions that America’s financial institutions and businesses have taken to end their relationships and engagements in Russia, with the Kremlin, and with businesses that support the Russian government. Specifically, the Committee is interested in understanding:

  • Actions undertaken by your industry and identities of your members that have decided to exit or wind-down business activities (including financial relationships) in Russia and with Russia-based firms since February 24, 2022;
  • The identities of companies that remain engaged in business activities in Russia, and with Russia-based firms, and what their plans are to either wind-down or end such activities, or the reasons why they plan to continue such activities;
  • Activities undertaken by your industry and members to comply with U.S., and allied sanctions (including internal risk analysis and sanctions compliance activities).


Please see the attached document for guidance on the collection of this information.


Thank you for your prompt attention.

Sincerely,

The Honorable Maxine Waters

Chairwoman

cc: The Honorable Patrick McHenry, Ranking Member

Enclosure (1)

________________________________________

[1] American Bankers Association; American Council of Life Insurers; American Fintech Council; American Institute of Certified Public Accountants; American Investment Council; Association for Digital Assets Markets; Bank Policy Institute; Blockchain Association; Commercial Real Estate Finance Council; Consumer Data Industry Association; Council of Institutional Investors; Digital Chamber of Commerce; Electronic Transactions Association; Financial Innovation Now; Financial Services Forum; Financial Services Institute; Financial Technology Association; Futures Industry Association; Index Industry Association; Institute of International Bankers; International Swaps and Derivatives Association; Investment Advisers Association; Investment Company Institute; Loan Syndication Trading Association; Managed Funds Association; National Venture Capital Association; Real Estate Roundtable; Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association; Structured Finance Association; U.S. Chamber of Commerce; U.S. Russia Business Council.

[2] See “From Apple to McDonald’s, What Companies Have Pulled Back from Russia?” Wall Street Journal, March 16, 2022, available at https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-companies-have-pulled-back-from-russia-11646425481.

[3] See “Big Auditors to Leave Russia Amid Invasion of Ukraine,” Wall Street Journal, March 7, 2022, available at https://www.wsj.com/articles/big-auditors-to-leave-russia-amid-invasion-of-ukraine-11646666419.

[4] See “Goldman Sachs to Exit Russia in Wall Street’s First Pullout,” Bloomberg, March 10, 2022, available at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-03-10/goldman-sachs-to-exit-russia-in-wall-street-s-first-pullout.

[5] See “Exodus of ‘iconic’ American companies is taking psychic toll on Russians,” NBC News, March 10, 2022, available at https://www.nbcnews.com/business/consumer/brands-leaving-russia-reaction-from-russian-people-rcna19418.

________________________________________

Organizations that received the letter include:

American Bankers Association

American Council of Life Insurers

American Fintech Council

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants

American Investment Council

Association for Digital Assets Markets

Bank Policy Institute

Blockchain Association

Commercial Real Estate Finance Council

Consumer Data Industry Association

Council of Institutional Investors

Digital Chamber of Commerce

Electronic Transactions Association

Financial Innovation Now

Financial Services Forum

Financial Services Institute

Financial Technology Association

Futures Industry Association

Index Industry Association

Institute of International Bankers

International Swaps and Derivatives Association

Investment Advisers Association

Investment Company Institute

Loan Syndication Trading Association

Managed Funds Association

National Venture Capital Association

Real Estate Roundtable

Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association

Structured Finance Association

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

U.S. Russia Business Council

###

In March 2022, Chairwoman Waters gave an opening statement and held a markup on five Russia and Ukraine bills that will root out Russian assets and money. Five bills passed the Committee, four of which passed by voice vote. They include:

  • H.R. 7080, the Nowhere to Oligarchs’ Assets Act is a bill offered by Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) that helps the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and its law enforcement partners detect Russian oligarchs who are participating in money laundering techniques to hide their money, avoid scrutiny, and evade our sanctions.
  • H.R. 7066, the Russia and Belarus Financial Sanctions Act is a bill offered by Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA) that clarifies that foreign subsidiaries of U.S. financial institutions must comply with American sanctions against Russia and Belarus.
  • H.R. 7081, the Ukraine Comprehensive Debt Repayment Relief Act is a bill offered by Representative Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL) that directs the Treasury to use its influence at the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, other multilateral development banks, and with private creditors to press for the suspension of all debt owed by Ukraine and for financial assistance to Ukraine and the countries along its borders taking in refugees.
  • H.R. 6891, the Isolate Russian Government Officials Act is a bill offered by Representative Ann Wagner (R-MO) that seeks to exclude Russian government officials from the G-20, Financial Stability Board, and other international standard-setting and economic cooperation bodies.
  • H.R. 6899, the Russia and Belarus SDR Exchange Prohibition Act is a bill offered by Representative French Hill (R-AK) that seeks to prevent Russia and Belarus from converting their holdings of Special Drawing Rights for hard currency.


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https://financialservices.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=409219

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