DC lobbying firms cut ties with Russian banks VTB, Sberbank
Influential U.S. lobbying firms have severed ties with VTB Bank and Sberbank after President Biden announced sanctions on the Russian state-owned financial institutions.
Powerhouse firm Venable LLP ended its lobbying contract with Sberbank Friday, according to a new filing. Sidley Austin LLP, another top Washington law and lobbying firm, said Friday that it ended its years-long representation of VTB Bank.
Venable filed a report with Congress Friday indicating that it dropped Sberbank after lobbying lawmakers on the Russian state-controlled bank’s behalf since 2017. Venable took in $240,000 from Sberbank last year to lobby Congress and the State Department on a slew of bills relating to Ukraine, Russia, and sanctions against Russian entities, according to lobbying filings.
“The firm cut ties today,” a Venable spokesperson confirmed in an email.
Sidley Austin, which has been representing VTB Bank since 2015 after the institution was hit by smaller sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion of Crimea, confirmed Friday that it dropped VTB as a client.
The Washington firm took in $180,000 from VTB between late April and September 2021 to “provide a weekly policy memorandum explaining developments in U.S.- Russia relations,” according to a recent Justice Department filing. For years, VTB has attempted to make inroads with lawmakers and U.S. officials in an effort to quash sanctions.
“VTB Group is no longer a client of Sidley Austin LLP in compliance with U.S. sanctions,” a spokesperson for the firm said in an email.
CNBC first reported that Sidley Austin was dropping VTB Bank Friday.
These moves come after the Biden administration imposed sanctions on five of Russia’s largest banks that prevent them from accessing the U.S. financial system. Sberbank holds more than one-third of Russian assets — the bank says that one in every two Russian companies has a Sberbank account — while VTB Bank has nearly one-fifth of the nation’s assets.
The sanctions, which target roughly 80 percent of Russian banking assets, are designed to inflict economic pain on Russia and its oligarchs as Russian President Vladimir Putin continues a violent military campaign in Ukraine.
“Treasury is taking serious and unprecedented action to deliver swift and severe consequences to the Kremlin and significantly impair their ability to use the Russian economy and financial system to further their malign activity,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Thursday. “Our actions, taken in coordination with partners and allies, will degrade Russia’s ability to project power and threaten the peace and stability of Europe.”
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