Van Hollen wants Fed to probe Trump's dealings at Deutsche Bank

Van Hollen wants Fed to probe Trump's dealings at Deutsche Bank
© Greg Nash

Sen. Chris Van Hollen is turning to the Federal Reserve Bank for help probing President Trump's financial relationship with Deutsche Bank USA.

The Maryland Democrat is imploring the Fed to provide answers about whether the president has financial conflicts of interest with the massive bank after neither the Justice Department nor the bank "provided my office with sufficient responses."

"I am requesting that you to provide my office and the American people with a clearer picture of the president’s relationship with Deutsche Bank and guarantee that you will continue to supervise and regulate this institution as you would any other,” Van Hollen wrote in a letter obtained by The Hill to Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen and bank President William Dudley on Wednesday.

Trump’s limited financial disclosures "make clear that he has significant liabilities to Deutsche Bank," Van Hollen said.

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But since the president hasn't released his tax returns, the senator said that "we do not know the full extent of these conflicts."

Van Hollen decided to ask the Fed for help in the matter after getting no response to a March 27 letter to Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsCurtis wins Chaffetz's former Utah House seat Overnight Cybersecurity: What we learned from Carter Page's House Intel testimony | House to mark up foreign intel reform law | FBI can't access Texas shooter's phone | Sessions to testify at hearing amid Russia scrutiny FBI can’t unlock Texas shooter’s phone MORE.

Attorneys for Deutsche Bank responded on May 10 to Van Hollen's April 12 letter to the bank's CEO John Cryan saying that because customer information is confidential the bank "is unable to comment whether the individuals and entities identified in your letter are clients of the bank or on the details of any accounts, loans or other transactions that any such individual or entity may have or may have had with the bank."

The attorneys added that the bank recognizes the "heightened sensitivities of managing relationships with clients who hold public office" in the United States and it has taken steps to ensure that its polices address potential conflicts of interest and maintain strict ethical standards in dealing with regulators or other government authorities. 

Without an answer from Sessions and the resignation of Walter Shaub Jr., the director of the Office of Government Ethics, Van Hollen said “the need for accountability and clarity with regard to the president’s conflicts of interest is greater than ever."

Deutsche Bank stands out among others in the president’s financial portfolio because the company is frequently in legal hot water.

"This oversight is important because Deutsche Bank has a long record of violations and a culture of noncompliance," Van Hollen said. "It has repeatedly violated supervisory standards, failed its stress tests and engaged in shady practices in the United States and around the world," he said. 

For example, the Federal Reserve recently levied $41 million in fines against the bank as part of a Russian money-laundering scandal.

Since the middle of 2015, the bank has racked up $9.2 billion in settlements, fines and penalties, including $7.2 billion to the Justice Department in December, according to an assessment by Capital Performance.  

House Financial Services Committee Democrats have been pushing for a deeper dive into Trump’s overall financial dealings as they are connected to Russia with a focus on his liabilities with Deutsche Bank.

On Tuesday, the House panel on a party-line vote defeated a request from Democrats that would have required Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to "provide certain documents ... relating to President Trump's financial connections to Russia."

Trump recently said special counsel Robert Mueller would be crossing a red line if he looked into his family's finances beyond the scope of the investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election and possible collusion with Trump's campaign.

Since the early 1990s, Deutsche Bank has done about $4 billion in business with Trump, according to a New York Times review of security filings.

Trump paid back most of those loans, but his most recent financial disclosure showed he has more than $150 million in outstanding debts to the bank.

Van Hollen expressed concern that if Trump fails to pay back his loans, Deutsche Bank would have to sue the president.

In the letter, Van Hollen asked the Fed to provide answers to six questions by Aug. 21, including Deutsche Bank’s exposure to Trump and his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.

He also asked for an explanation about how the Fed has worked with Deutsche Bank on any restructuring of Trump’s or Kushner’s debt, including whether or not it has been sold to foreign entities.

This story was updated at 3:30 p.m.