U.S. lawmaker Waters presses financial trade groups for details on Russia exits

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Maxine Waters at a committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington

By Hannah Lang

WASHINGTON – Prominent U.S. lawmaker Maxine Waters has asked more than 30 financial services trade groups for information on what steps their members have taken to end business relationships in Russia as pressure escalates on companies to cut ties with Moscow.

In a letter sent on Thursday to leading industry groups including the American Bankers Association, Bank Policy Institute, Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Waters requested data on which companies remain engaged in business activities in Russia following its invasion of Ukraine and their reason for doing so.

She also asked the groups to detail their members’ processes for complying with Western sanctions. She asked the groups to get the information to the committee within 20 days.

U.S. Representative Waters, the California Democrat who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, did not indicate what the committee might do with this information.

Financial companies have taken varying approaches in response to Russia’s invasion and Waters’ scrutiny is likely to increase pressure on those institutions which have yet to exit.

“Even though multiple companies have voluntarily divested from Russia, the Committee currently lacks a clear picture of the extent of these divestments,” she wrote.

“When the full might of the U.S. economy is applied against countries that commit atrocities, we can bring about real and lasting change.”

U.S. payments firms Visa Inc, Mastercard Inc and PayPal Holdings Inc suspended their operations in Russia earlier this month, a move welcomed by the White House.

Several of Wall Street’s biggest banks, including Citigroup Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and Goldman Sachs Group Inc, have committed to winding down business in Russia, although they are also planning on maintaining a limited presence and are holding on to Russian banking licenses, Reuters reported.

Most cryptocurrency exchanges, meanwhile, have resisted calls to cut off Russian users, raising concerns that digital assets could be used to evade Western sanctions.

(Reporting by Hannah Lang in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)