Dividends and Western firms re-examine their ties to Russia’s oligarchs

If you are a fan of John Grisham and many people are, some of his books have been made into movies. One book that was made into a movie was called The Firm. The law firm hired the brighest and best lawyers, it was located in the most prominent office building in Memphis and from the outside looked well established. The character played by Tom Cruise who graduated from Harvard Law reasonably quickly came to understand the owner who the law firm protected was the Chicago mob. The book was fiction and in the end, the firm was dissolved.

In real life, there are many firms working for those with money how they received it, is not discussed, but they have it and the firms ensure the money is working in the economy. In an article by Matthew Goldstein, Kenneth Vogel, Jesse Drucker, Marueen Farrell and Mike McIntire of the New York Times News Service, there are numerous firms around New York City managing money for Russia oligarchs.

One firm is called Concord Management LLC which manages between $4 and $8 billion and the money goes into hedge funds and private-equity firms.

On one hand politicians talk about the rich hiding assets, on the other side they help them. In London and New York and many other cities, there is a thriving industry of lawyers who specialize in hiding assets.

The firms have to decide if the fees they receive from Russian oligarchs or Russian companies on the sanctions list is high enough to deal with the bureaucratic hurdles and reputational risks. Over the past month many high profile law and public relations firms have said they no longer represent their Russia clients or operations.

The firms include law firms Skadden Arps, Linklaters, Norton Rose Fulbright, Debevoise & Plimpton, Ashurst. Accounting giants PWC, KPMG, Deloitte and EY have all provided extensive services to oligarchs and their networks of shell companies.

Linking to dividend paying stocks, legally speaking there is nothing wrong with working for sanctioned companies as long as certain rules are followed. Somebody needs to work with them to follow the rules. Often times, firms are drawn to work with the oligarchs because they pay their bills and do not worry about the fees, it is price of doing business. A couple of months ago, working for oligarchs was under the radar of most of the population and the fees were good. With sanctions, changes happen and maybe when the sanctions are off, the old practices will return. For now, it is often very difficult to be on the right side of the law all the time, ideally when a company makes a profit selling its goods and services over a long time, all its relations both good and bad can be seen and generally the public is good with it. If the public is good, then as an investor you can be good.

There are more questions than answers, till the next time – to raising questions.

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