Daily Management Review

Papers of large Western banks fall amid Russian reputational scandal


The scandal surrounding Raiffeisen Bank International, ING, Deutsche Bank and Citigroup, which broke out after the complaint of Bill Browder to the Austrian prosecutor's office, risks to result in criminal penalties and severe sanctions by regulators. Although there is still no information about the start of investigations, this has already become a severe blow to the reputation of banks. One of the ways to reflect it, according to lawyers, can be the rejection of Russian business.

Shares of one of the largest European banking groups Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) for March 5–6 fell by more than 15% after two large strikes on reputation. It became known on March 5 that Head of the Hermitage Capital Management fund, Bill Browder, sent a report on activities of Raiffeisen Zentralbank (legal predecessor to RBI) to the Austrian Prosecutor’s Office. It turned out that Raiffeisen Zentralbank allegedly participated in laundering of $ 967 million of Russian funds through Danish Danske Bank and Lithuanian Ukio Bankas. On the eve, Raiffeisen (along with ING, Deutsche Bank and Citigroup Inc.) was mentioned in the loud investigation of the OCCRP project as a counterparty for operations with offshore companies of the Russian investment bank Troika Dialog in 2006–2013. At the same time, ING shares fell by 6%, Deutsche Bank - by 1.3%.

The RBI reported that they did not have information about the specific accusations by Mr. Browder. But they assured that “they are serious about the accusations that appeared in the media and are conducting an internal investigation.” Neither European financial regulators, nor law enforcers (including the Austrian prosecutor’s office) have yet clearly commented on the situation.

Among the defendants in the current scandal, RBI has the most significant assets in the Russian Federation, and ranks 10th in the country in terms of assets. This is not the first claim in the lack of control over the laundering of funds from the Russian Federation. A year ago, the Austrian Financial Market Authority (FMA) fined the group € 2.75 million for “inadequate verification of identity of the beneficial owner and inability to regularly update necessary documents, data and information necessary to understand the ownership structure and control of high-risk customers.” As the Austrian television and radio company ORF.at reported, the investigation menationed loans provided by RBI to Russian businesswoman Olga Mirimskaya. RBI is disputing the fine in court.

source: orf.at