“We are coming for your ill-begotten gains” says President Biden
US and UK law firms representing oligarchs and other Russian clients are dropping them as the Russian sanctions and antagonism towards Russia’s Ukrainian invasion continues to add pressure on law firms representing Russian clients.
Pressure continues to mount in both the UK and the US on law firms representing Russian clients, where President Biden’s State of the Union address announced that he had launched a ‘Kleptocapture task force‘ which comprises interagency work from the FBI, Marshals Service, IRS, Postal Inspection, Homeland Security Investigations and Secret Service.
“We are coming for your ill-begotten gains,” the president said.
Russian-Linked Law Firms
Among the law firms that have announced Russian deals previously and who have had offices or strong legal associates with Russian companies include Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; Allen & Overy; Baker Botts, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton; Debevoise & Plimpton; Dentons; Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer; Hogan Lovells; Latham & Watkins; and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
Among the major law firms dumping their Russian clients or reassessing their Russian links are some of the biggest names in law, including –
Baker + McKenzie – ‘With offices in Moscow and St Petersburg, we are reviewing and adjusting our Russia-related operations and client work to align with all applicable sanctions and comply with these fast-evolving laws,” a spokesman said.
White & Case – A firm spokesperson said: ‘We are reviewing our Russian and Belarusian client representations and taking steps to exit some representations in accordance with applicable rules of professional responsibility.”
Linklaters – The firm said they are reviewing all of the firm’s ‘Russia-related’ work.
Kennedys – The firm said it had already made the decision to wind down its Moscow office last autumn, and does not intend to renew its lease once it expires next year. Global senior partner Nick Thomas said the firm was ‘uncomfortable with the direction the country was taking’ and is now working to identify Ukrainian and Polish charities to provide support where it is needed.
Venables – The firm has dropped Russian financial institution Sberbank CIB USA.
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius – The firm recently touted its work for VTB Bank and a multi-billion dollar financing project with the Russian state development corporation VEB.RF but has since removed its press release about the deal and announced it would fully comply with all sanctions regarding Russian work.
London-based law firm Ivanyan & Partners saw a founding partner in the Russian law firm, who joined from Clifford Chance closed the London office of the firm following the Ukraine invasion.
The UK Law Society said that it supported firms representing Russian clients and in particular those working to ensure sanctions imposed by the UK government are lawful.
Major law firms have been criticised by UK foreign secretary Liz Truss in a briefing to MPs for seeking to hold up the sanctions process. She said that the government had to make sure these measures were ‘legally watertight’.
She said the UK would “target the families of oligarchs, the people that work for them, the people who support them and the people who enable them” – a reference to the use of London law firms, banks and reputation agencies to advance Russian or oligarch interests.