Law firms drop some Russian clients following sanctions for Ukraine invasion
Image from Shutterstock.
Several major law firms are dropping some Russian clients and reviewing Russian-related work to comply with sanctions imposed in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
About 20 international law firms have offices in Moscow, advising clients in energy, finance and other sectors, according to Reuters and Law.com.
More than a half-dozen have commented on their client reviews, according to stories by Law.com (in separate stories here and here), Bloomberg Law, Reuters and Law360.
Some law firms with Russian offices are reluctant to comment, however, because of fears of reprisals against their lawyers and staff members, Law.com reports.
“Look at the government you’re dealing with,” said one law firm spokesperson who talked to Law.com. “And Putin and what he’s capable of. Would you really be surprised if something nefarious happened, given that the man just invaded a sovereign state?”
The stories report these actions by law firms:
• Sidley Austin said it is no longer representing Russian lender VTB Group “in compliance with U.S. sanctions.”
• Venable has dropped Russian financial institution Sberbank CIB USA.
• Baker McKenzie, which also represented VTB Group and Russian-owned petroleum producer Gazprom, said it would observe sanctions, in some cases by “exiting relationships completely.”
• White & Case, which advises Russian-owned oil giants Bashneft and Rosneft, said it was “taking steps to exit some representations” in accord with applicable ethics rules.
• Morgan, Lewis & Bockius said it would comply with sanctions, “including with respect to any client representations.”
• Also reviewing their client matters are Linklaters, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner and Baker Botts, which all have Moscow offices.
Bill Burke-White, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, told Law.com in a separate story that international law firms in Russia made a long-term investment to advise clients there.
“All of that is completely under threat today in every way,” Burke-White said.
Banning Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging system will make the flow of money to and from Russia nearly impossible, according to Burke-White.
“If I was a U.S. law firm today, I’m not sure how I would get paid for doing work in Russia or for Russian clients,” he told Law.com.
He added, however, that he hopes that law firms that end work for Russian state-owned enterprises will find a way to continue other work in Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime won’t last forever, and law firms may not want to “abandon a country that depends on building the rule of law for its future,” he said.
ABAJournal.com: “3 BigLaw firms close their Kyiv offices; firms in US ready for pro bono refugee work”
ABAJournal.com: “Ukraine asks international court to rule Russia made false claims of genocide to justify ‘brutal invasion’”