waste putin

Who's binning Vlad and his pals?


UK law firms have responded to Putin's invasion of Ukraine by taking a stand - or by staying very quiet indeed.

RollOnFriday approached over 100 firms to ask them what actions they were taking with regard to their relationships with clients linked to Putin's regime.

A large number of firms did not respond, including Bird & Bird, Carey Olsen, Cleary, Cooley, Davis Polk, Debevoise & Plimpton, Eversheds Sutherland (update: see below), Farrers, Fried Frank, Gibson Dunn, Gowling WLG, Greenberg Traurig, Jones Day, Latham & Watkins, Mayer Brown, Mills & Reeve, Morrison & Foerster, Ogier, Ropes & Gray, Shoosmiths, Taylor Wessing, Trowers & Hamlins, Weil, Willkie Farr, and Withers.

Putin's prize for Best Friend in the West goes to Freshfields, which is actively working to retain its links with his murderous regime. It has applied to continue to act for the sanctioned VTB group in litigation arising from a bonds scandal in Mozambique. The Magic Circle firm is currently seeking a special licence so it can continue to get its fees paid by the Russian bank. Freshfields told RollOnFriday it had no comment. (Update: after widespread outrage and a hard look in the mirror, the firm has decided to drop the bank.)

Kingsley Napley didn't respond, either, which means RollOnFriday cannot confirm whether its brochure inviting wealthy Russians to buy property in the UK "in the shortest time possible with full comfort for the client", remains extant:

kn brochure

But yesterday panning for oligarch gold was fine! So unfair.


Ashurst raised the Ukrainian flag the highest, revealing that it will not take on any new Russian clients, nor carry out any work for existing Russian clients, whether or not they are subject to sanctions. Ashurst's Russian client base is understood to be relatively small, but the move nonetheless represents a lot more than lip service.

The ground is shifting quickly. Simmons & Simmons began the week with a neutral announcement that it was "carefully reviewing" its Russian-related activities and had set up a "New Russian Business Committee", which sounded disconcertingly as if it intended to sweep up the tainted billionaires everyone else was ditching. By Thursday, Simmons had hardened its position, telling RollOnFriday it would "stop advising on matters which support the Russian and Belarusian economies and governments at this time". 

Dentons initially told RollOnFriday that, "where appropriate", it would be "terminating our relationship with certain clients". By Thursday afternoon it, too, had toughened its stance, and said it was reviewing “existing work and new business acceptance criteria to ensure compliance with our legal and ethical obligations, firm policies, and our values”, and that as a result, “we have already concluded certain relationships and declined certain instructions”.

Osborne Clarke's stance was unequivocal. Omar Al-Nuaimi, Osborne Clarke's International CEO, told RollOnFriday that the firm "is united in its support for the people of Ukraine and deplores the use of violence, the violation of international law and the disregard for Ukraine's sovereignty and independence". He said OC was working with humanitarian organisations to offer support via donations and volunteering efforts, and that "we will not act for any individuals or organisations that are subject to sanctions or take on new clients or matters which are inconsistent with our support for Ukraine and its people".

"This will result in our not taking on new clients that are owned by Russian or Belarusian individuals, corporations or by their governments, for the time being. We are evaluating all matters where we are already engaged that are linked to Russia and Belarus. We will continue to support existing clients that are seeking to exit the Russian market, where it feels right to do so", he said.

Businesses with an office in Moscow faced a trickier calculation. One firm told RollOnFriday that it was limited in what it could say and do publicly by its concern that Putin could target its Moscow staff.

That was Norton Rose Fulbright's defence when a memo, leaked to The Lawyer, was characterised as a warning to its people not to speak out against the conflict. 

If NRF was seeking to keep a lid on staff sentiments, its effort backfired when Shearman & Shearman’s Global Managing Partner, George Casey, wrote on LinkedIn, "To my friends at Norton Rose Fulbright - are you serious?! In this defining moment for humanity, which side of history are you choosing?". 

NRF's chair in Canada, Walied Soliman, broke ranks and replied, "I want to be absolutely clear: we stand with the people of Ukraine. Period. I encourage all of our partners and colleagues to speak out. No other position on this crisis is acceptable and is completely disavowed". 

The uproar, which included NRF's German COO publicly siding with Soliman, compelled NRF's global chief executive, Gerard Pecht, to publish a response clarifying that "Norton Rose Fulbright’s leadership unequivocally stands with the people of Ukraine and against the invasion of their country by Russia".

He said the firm was making "appropriate adjustments to comply with all sanctions and new laws, which will result in us ending certain of our client relationships".

DLA Piper, while mindful of its staff in Moscow, issued a heartfelt message. "We have watched in dismay and disbelief at the invasion of Ukraine by Russia", a spokesperson told RollOnFriday. "We stand with the people of Ukraine and our thoughts are with them and all those in the region, and beyond, who are affected by this tragedy".

The firm said it was providing support to its people and their families "wherever we can", and "urgently reviewing all Russia-related client engagements to ensure we do not act in a way that conflicts with our values".  

Herbert Smith Freehills took a similar position. "We have been shocked and deeply saddened by what continues to unfold in Ukraine", the firm told RollOnFriday, emphasising that "our first immediate concern is looking after our Ukrainian and Russian colleagues". HSF said its Moscow office remained open, but the "rapidly changing" landscape  "will include our ceasing to act for certain of our Russian clients and on certain Russia-related work".

Allen & Overy made its anti-Kremlin sentiments extremely clear in a statement posted on LinkedIn. "We have been deeply shocked by the increasingly tragic scenes we are now seeing every day, as Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine causes ever greater damage and a growing humanitarian crisis", said the Magic Circle firm. "We have been very moved by the stories we have heard from the people in Ukraine, who have been put in such a horrific position by this unlawful invasion", said the firm.

A&O continued that it "supports governments around the world in their response to this senseless invasion and condemns Russia’s actions", and confirmed that it was "reviewing our Russia-related portfolio" and as a result "will refuse new instructions and stop all Russia-linked work that goes against our values".

Some critics argued that firms should refrain from voicing their opinions on world events, or choosing their clients accordingly. "It’s the job of solicitors to represent their clients, whoever they may be", said Law Society President I. Stephanie Boyce. "This is how the public can be confident they live in a country that respects the rule of law - unlike Putin’s tyrannical regime", she said, although others applauded firms for squeezing the oligarchs.

Stephenson Harwood was way ahead of the pack. It enraged Putin and his cronies by acting for shareholders in the bankrupt oil company Yukos when they sued Russia, and was consequently blackballed by the regime. "You may know we acted on one of the largest cases against the Russian state, so we're not exposed in the same ways as many City law firms in acting for, or representing, Russian state-owned businesses or Putin-linked oligarchs", a Stephenson Harwood spokesperson told RollOnFriday.

Kennedys was also one step ahead. It decided last Autumn to begin closing its Moscow office, because, said Senior Partner Nick Thomas, "We were uncomfortable with the direction the country was taking".

A few other firms contacted by RollOnFriday were also able to say with some degree of satisfaction that they didn't have any Russian clients at all, so had no exposure. Those included Shearman & Sterling, McDermott Will & Emery, Gateley, and Winckworth Sherwood.

Other firms braved the potential fallout from displeasing Mad Vlad and confirmed they would drop clients linked to his regime. White & Case, which has an office in Moscow, said it was reviewing its Russian and Belarusian clients "and taking steps to exit some representations in accordance with applicable rules of professional responsibility". White & Case's Moscow office remains open, although the firm will "continue to closely monitor this rapidly evolving situation".

Linklaters also has a Moscow office and said that it was working to "ensure the safety and support of colleagues and their families", but was reviewing all of its Russia-related business. Links said the war was "deeply distressing and our thoughts are with the Ukrainian people".

Baker Botts risked Putin's wrath with an unambiguous condemnation of the Russian leader's warmongering. "We condemn the invasion of Ukraine, and we hope for a cessation of hostilities at the earliest moment", said a spokesperson for the US firm. It currently has an office in Moscow, but perhaps not for long. A spokesperson said the future of its work in Russia depended upon "serious ethical, moral and legal considerations", and it would be "working directly with clients on any necessary transitions". In the meantime, "protecting and supporting the people of our Moscow office remains a top priority", he said.

Some firms took a more traditional approach and declined to condemn the war, or refer to it. "As with most multinational organizations operating in the region, we have been closely coordinating to navigate the complexities of the situation", said a spokesperson for BCLP. "We are adapting to comply with applicable sanctions and responding as required in the circumstances. Due to confidentiality, we are not able to share more", he added.

Several firms did share more about their intentions. Sidley Austin said it had already dropped VTB Group after the Russian bank was subjected to US sanctions, while Baker McKenzie confirmed that ensuring its Russia-related work aligned with sanctions "will mean in some cases exiting relationships completely".

Firms including Slaughter and May, Hogan Lovells, and Pinsent Masons all said they were reviewing their Russian matters.

A spokesperson for Hogan Lovells said that as sanctions evolved, it "may mean ceasing work where appropriate", adding that, "our thoughts are with all those people affected by the situation in Ukraine, including many of our own colleagues who have relatives in the region".

Pinsent Masons said the firm didn't represent any Putin-linked oligarchs, but it was reviewing the "small number of existing mandates that involve Russian entities" to "determine whether we should continue to discharge our retainers".  

"As you would you expect, our primary focus at this time is supporting those of our colleagues who have friends and family affected by the tragedy that is unfolding in Ukraine", said Pinsents.

Slaughter and May is also understood to have minimal exposure to Russian clients, but said it would "continue to review our position to ensure we comply fully with sanctions applied to Russian entities and individuals". A spokesperson for Womble Bond Dickinson told RollOnFriday it had the usual anti-money laundering checks in place, but was carrying out further searches to identify "any links" between its clients and the Putin regime. 

Clyde & Co is in the unique position of once having had a Gazprom board member as the head of its affiliated office in Russia, who also taught Putin law at St Petersburg University. A spokesperson for Clydes said it was "ensuring that our portfolio of work complies with all applicable sanctions regulations and our professional and ethical responsibilities". He added that, "needless to say, our thoughts are with the Ukrainian people and our colleagues who have family in the country".

Campaigners have long argued that the current money-laundering requirements have failed to prevent dirty Russian money washing through UK law, and some accused firms of not going far enough in their statements about the current crisis. Activist Bill Browder chastised Linklaters, which has acted for oligarch Oleg Deripaska, for not explicitly condemning the invasion. "Greedy sc..bags! If firms like BP are ready to divest from Rosneft, surely a law firm could drop their Putin regime clients. Incomprehensible", he posted on Twitter.

At least Linklaters said something. Several firms understood to have oligarchs and Russian state businesses on their books were conspicuously silent. Skadden, Quinn, CMS (update: see below), Akin Gump, Mishcon de Reya and Fieldfisher all failed to respond to requests for comment or declined to comment, as did Macfarlanes and Clifford Chance (update: see below). Sullivan & Cromwell said simply, "This is not something we can comment on right now".

Update: On Friday, Eversheds Sutherland told RollOnFriday in a statement that it was making an "initial donation of £200,000" to the International Rescue Committee, "and further donations to local charities in CEE countries".

It said, "the escalating conflict in Ukraine following military action is deeply troubling and we hope that there will be a swift and peaceful resolution. Respecting and protecting the rule of law lies at the heart of what we do as a business and what we, as lawyers and business professionals, believe in. Events of the past week have been truly shocking and, as a firm, we stand with the people of Ukraine and all those who are impacted".

The firm is reviewing its existing client work, but said that although it has work which "is centred on advising multinational clients on their affairs relating to or in Russia", it was not acting for the Russian government or Russian state-controlled entities, "nor are we acting for oligarchs".

And, the firm added, "through our internal processes and controls, we are alerted to any requests for advice from Russian entities which we intend to decline". 

Update 2: Clifford Chance also got in touch on Friday to stake out its position: 

"We are shocked and appalled by the continuing and increasing Russian military aggression in #Ukraine and the resulting human suffering in Ukraine and the surrounding countries", said the firm in a statement. "We stand together in condemning the invasion which is a clear and blatant violation of international law and the UN Charter. We strongly support the rights of the government and the people of Ukraine,"
 
"We are united with the governments and fellow members of the legal and wider business community calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukraine in compliance with international law", continued Clifford Chance.

It said that, in support of those objectives, "we will not accept new mandates from any Russian state entity, Russian state-owned enterprises or individuals identified as having close connections to President Putin". 

CC said it would also "review all existing and new mandates relating to Russia, or where there is a connection to Russia, to ensure that our work remains consistent not only with the letter and the spirit of the international sanctions but also with our responsible business principles and values".

"We always prioritise the safety, security and wellbeing of our people wherever they may be in the world. In particular, we stand in solidarity with both our Ukrainian and Russian colleagues across our offices, our many colleagues and former colleagues in the region, and those with close connections to the people of Ukraine and Russia. These are distressing and emotional times for many, and we commit to help and support wherever we can", the Magic Circle firm said.

Update 3: Also on Friday afternoon, CMS produced a statement which did not mince words. “We strongly condemn the brutal and unlawful Russian invasion of Ukraine”, it said. “We stand with the people of Ukraine and continue to be inspired by their bravery and resilience in the face of unspeakable aggression”. 

CMS said that its “utmost priority has been to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our colleagues and their families in Ukraine”, and “Thankfully, all are currently safe and accounted for”.

The firm addressed some of the complexities of balancing an ethical response with the expectations of the right to legal representation. It said, “We are mindful that as lawyers, we have a role in supporting the rule of law and access to justice, principles that should be valued and supported in any democratic society”. But the situation, with civilians being murdered and the shelling of a nuclear power plant, represented exceptional circumstance. “However, due to the gravity of the current situation, the firm shall not, for now, accept new instructions from Russian based entities or from any individuals with a connection to the Russian Government (wherever they are based)”, said CMS.

The firm’s continuing presence in Moscow is also now in question. “We will continue to act professionally and are undertaking a review of current work, to ensure that the firm remains compliant with international sanctions and its principles and values. The future of the Moscow office is also under critical review”, said the firm. 

Tip Off ROF

Comments

Anon 04 March 22 04:14

Well done ROF in holding a mirror to firms with Russian offices, clients, matters, or connections. How firms conduct themselves and respond is a strong indication of the moral fibre and dna of such firms; whether they outright condemn the actions of Putin and put their money where their mouths are or whether they buy time and try to protect their revenue stream by saying nothing or, even worse, trying to weasel round the complexities of the situation will be a clear indication of a firm’s priorities.

fannyprice 04 March 22 07:41

"Ashurst raised the Ukrainian flag the highest, revealing that it will not take on any new Russian clients, nor carry out any work for existing Russian clients, whether or not they are subject to sanctions. Ashurst's Russian client base is understood to be relatively small, but the move nonetheless represents a lot more than lip service"

I find it highly unlikely that ashursts will down tools on an litigated matter with an imminent deadline ...

Anonymous 04 March 22 07:44

Vlad is a d*ckhead.
 

Shearman & Sterling were right to rip into Norton Rose Fulbright. 

 

CrissCross 04 March 22 08:06

Best to do what Charles Russell Speechlys did - a half hearted condemnation circulated on a strictly internal basis only....

Not MC 04 March 22 08:13

Baffled by Clifford Chance’s silence. It’s been keen to demonstrate its ethical stance in other situations. After George Floyd it released a ‘call for action for racial equality’, and it’s spoken a lot about its fight to get a third, ‘X’ option on passports for non binary people. Doesn’t make sense that it wouldn’t have a similarly strong view when women and children are being slaughtered in Europe. Very odd. 

Andy the S 04 March 22 08:32

"Kingsley Napley didn't respond, either, which means RollOnFriday cannot confirm whether its brochure inviting wealthy Russians to buy property in the UK "in the shortest time possible with full comfort for the client", remains extant:"

I'd be interested to know the money laundering checks firms like this do

Anon 04 March 22 08:57

Ceasing work for Russian clients is going to have a financial impact on a number of law firms.   Interesting to see how far law firms are willing to go.

Anonymous 04 March 22 09:00

This is absolutely first class work, ROF, and is going to have a real impact. Thank you. 

Gannicus 04 March 22 09:14

Whole lot of empty virtue signalling going on here. 

All of these "right side of history" cretins are merrily dealing with all sorts of monstrous regimes and their enablers. Chinese genocide? No fvcks given. Saudi brutality? ditto. US war crimes. ditto again.

Anonymous 04 March 22 09:16

Internally at WBD we received firm wide e-mails and internal website messaging when George Floyd was murdered and when Saka, Rashford and Sancho received racist abuse in the Summer - even support lines for staff to call to deal with their upset. Thousands of people are bombed to shit in Ukraine and there’s not a peep. Not even an acknowledgment that there’s a war in Europe going on. 

Anonymous 04 March 22 09:42

Clients should boycott NRF. Horrible firm with horrible culture that’s caused all the decent folk to leave! Find me someone who worked there  in the last decade to tell me otherwise!

Scrooge McDuff 04 March 22 09:44

I would be interested to hear what RPC’s stance is, seeing as they have for years been working for Russian oligarchs and banks already subject to US sanctions (Deripaska etc)

Anonymous 04 March 22 09:52

Kingsley Napley obviously care not a jot, so long as their big bills are paid, by the likes of these Russians, Augusto Pinochet, Harvey Weinstein, Rolf Harris… the list goes on

Aaron 04 March 22 09:56

Most of CGSH London office client base is the   Russian Federation, let’s see how they react to potentially loosing 90% of their income.

The partners are greedy and will not put in jeopardy their excessive incomes for the sake of the unfortunate Ukrainians.

Dearie 04 March 22 09:58

Events such as the unlawful invasion of Ukraine are an opportunity for firms to show what culture they really have and what values they really share. 

Chuckle Brothers 04 March 22 10:12

@ Dearie - if you think law firms have "culture", you are seriously deluded.  Culture does not exist.

Anonymous 04 March 22 10:33

Akin Gump's London office have huge Russia exposure and was originally set up purely to service the needs of the Moscow office. Indeed, they were one of the first first to open in Moscow, due in no small part to the role of Robert Strauss (final ambassador to the USSR). Certain partners have made their careers by just sitting back and cashing the checks of just one or two Russian clients. 

Are they? 04 March 22 10:38

Tom, why? 

The story says Freshfields had the opportunity to tell rof if it was one of the goodies earlier in the week - it’s on them if they didn’t bother, and suggests they were scrambling!

Anon 04 March 22 10:56

ROF - What's the position of Morgan Lewis?  They have a significant Moscow office/Russian client base?

Jamie Hamilton 04 March 22 11:05

Morgan Lewis told me, “Across our global offices we are and will remain in full compliance with the US, UK, Canadian, and EU sanctions regimes, including with respect to any client representations.”

 

Private client bod 04 March 22 11:25

@Andy the S 08.32

In my experience money laundering checks are only half the story. Usually the checks come back for someone of this profile showing they are a PEP, and often in the US 'friends of Putin' list (which isn't entirely accurate in some cases).

So the decision falls to the firm to make its own decision based on reputational risk. In many cases a bit of digging reveals how close the individual is to Putin/assets derived in questionable circumstances from the Russian state, in which case any sane firm would choose not to act (I used to work for a City practice which, to its credit, turned down the opportunity to do some very lucrative work for one of the better-known oligarchs). There have, equally, been occasions when it turns out that the individual concerned has no more connection to Putin etc than simply being a rich Russian - and squeaky clean examples genuinely do exist. 

TL:DR it depends on the firm's appetite for risk and thoroughness in checking out the details.

Molotov Cocktail 04 March 22 11:29

At least one Debevoise partner also seems to have a sense of irony failure. Despite personally earning millions in profits generated from a firm acting for the Russian state and many Putin enabling oligarchs, she was whining on LinkedIn this week about the bombing of her ancestral homeland. Does she not realise the fact that Debevoise (and many other firms) are prepared to act for Russians against Western interests is at least partly why Putin thought there would be no come back on his decision to invade?

The Debevoise rot starts at the top. In December 2021 the co-head of the London office, Lord Goldsmith, took a leave of absence from the House of Lords. That is so he doesn’t have to comply with new rules showing how much Debevoise is earning from representing the Russian Federation in its ongoing dispute over Yukos, among others.

Perhaps lawyers do look like their clients after all?

I hate the office. I hate WFH. I hate everything. 04 March 22 12:08

Brilliant report.  The Freshfields story leads to an inevitable question; is recovery of Freshfields' hourly rates within the scope of 'reasonable' costs?

Anon 04 March 22 12:11

The hypocrisy at Dentons in particular is just staggering. Happy to turn a blind eye and act for Russian, Chinese and Saudi clients. Sad when profit comes before principle and values. Must be proud.

Reply to Not MC 04 March 22 12:18

It's not really that baffling when you consider CC has an office in Moscow so it would make complete sense for them to assess the safety of their lawyers there etc. before making a statement. That said, I actually saw a response from them on LinkedIn earlier in the week so not sure if you just missed it. They also released a formal statement above today. I'm all for holding law firms to account on this but think it's a bit unfair to just gun for CC. Freshfields however... 

Anonymous 04 March 22 13:16

Pathetic and destructive. Hysteric Propaganda. Cheap manipulation. This is happening after 2 years of “Plague” panic and BLM nonsense…wondering what is next on the menu? 

Well, it only shows how many brainwashed are around. You had no concerns about people/children/women in the Middle East  or  Yugoslavia (Europe by the way)…because these countries were attacked by the USA and Britain forces, but it suited you well, right? Law firms have to stay neutral and keep doing their job (the same like doctors).
If an accused/defendant is allowed to have a lawyer, surely Russian nationals/businesses are allowed to get a legal advice when needed. 
By the way, everyone has a family to feed, unless you wish to rely on the “trustworthy”Gov or a party clown.

 

I hate the office. I hate WFH. I hate everything. 04 March 22 13:34

@Not MC 04 March 22 08:13

There is nothing baffling about CC's silence.

Talk is cheap.

Boom 04 March 22 13:50

Any news from Enyo, PRC, PCB as well as QCs who earn millions in profits generated from Russia?

Very disappointed 04 March 22 13:54

At Gowling WLG we’ve had two internal emails about the “events” and the “situation” in Ukraine (not the “war” or the “invasion”). We’ve been reassured that our colleagues in Moscow are “safe and well” (thank f*ck for that although the bombs are landing in Ukraine, not Moscow). We’ve also been reassured that safeguards are in place to ensure our Moscow office can “continue to function smoothly in the event of a threat or disruption”. And we’ve been told that the firm is developing a q&a sheet to be made available this week, which has not materialised yet. Oh and a request that client questions or media requests be directed to our comms team. Hugely disappointing response compared to other firms, I’m not surprised they didn’t get back to you, ROF.

Human 04 March 22 16:24

Acting for oligarchs is not respectable professional behaviour. Never was. You knew or ought to have known that the money was disproportionate to any reasonable economic rewards for legitimate business activities. Same with any overseas national with unexplained wealth and an interest in the UK property market.

Human 04 March 22 16:36

While on the subject of reasonable behaviour, accepting instructions to put insulting, absurd and unreasonable allegations to a witness for the purposes of obtaining public humiliation; to make a vexatiously absurd argument; or to use litigation as a tool for entrenching the privileges of wealth, then you earn a living from the proceeds of crime.

Everyone has a right to legal representation; nobody has an obligation to provide it. If your client is lying, and you know this beyond reasonable doubt, it is unreasonable behaviour to accept instructions to become an accessory in the promulgation of that lie. 

LondonLife 04 March 22 16:58

Why are you not focusing on Debevoise more? 

They act for the Russian state and have a Russian government issued phone in their office which provides a direct line to the Russian foreign office. 

Congrats to 04 March 22 18:37

DLA closing their Ukraine office last year now that’s forward planning !

Probably be the Taiwan office closing soon.

Then Pyongyang and Tehran.

Interested observer 04 March 22 19:43

I for one would love to know what Peters & Peters have to say about this. Or did they clear out their oligarch clients so that they could act for Post Office?

GC 04 March 22 20:36

“Everyone has a right to legal representation”

We’re not generally talking about individuals being accused of crimes here so cut the ‘lawyers are a speshul breed’ crap. 

Isobel 04 March 22 21:33

Franky taken aback at the lack of logical thought applied to this subject, presumably by lawyers. We do not live in a state where legal services are only provided to people we like. If we did, we would be as bad as those states we condemn for their failure to deliver access to justice in an even-handed way. This issues is bigger and more important than our gut reactions to a despicable attack on innocent people. Despicable attacks on innocent people sadly take place all around us, including in China and the middle east, but it is not suggested (yet?) that clients who hail from those regimes should be turned away. This is a bandwagon. All legal regulators are obliged to promulgate the access to justice principles of English law, and they should be giving guidance to law firms to the effect that they should rigorously apply the law and observe the sanctions, but otherwise impartially represent members of public even if they do not personally like the politics of the country in which that person was born. Firms who make these headline-grabbing announcements are only thinking of their reputation (belatedly perhaps in some cases), and are not observing their basic obligation not to discriminate on the grounds of race ethnicity or nationality (amongst other things). Come on, we are better than this in the UK!

Freshfields lawyer 05 March 22 00:10

Eight days after the full blown invasion, Freshfields issue a half-baked statement. It's embarrassing. We stayed silent too long and then said very little. People are dying. Civilians are being bombed. It's almost as if they forget that everyone is vying for talent - many are ready to walk now. 

Anonymous 05 March 22 08:10

Anon 04 March 22 21:05
 

I don’t see them doing a Linklaters and shutting the Moscow office given the revenue that comes from Goldsplat’s lot and given the post-Advance evangelical drive for higher PEP emanating from the Death Star in St Louis.

watch this space.

A real Freshfields lawyer 05 March 22 08:50

We make a lot of money from our Russian clients, frankly.  By contrast, we do not really care about what happens to the Ukraine, which is economically irrelevant.  And we don’t engage in blatant virtue signalling like the other law firms do.

Clarificationseeker 05 March 22 11:50

So err, our Bahrain, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Doha, Almaty, Cairo, Beijing, Shanghai, Baku, Istanbul and Caracas offices...they err... carry on business as usual? Yup? Got it. Thanks. 

Anonymous 05 March 22 12:45

@Isobel 04 March 22 21:33

People have a right to be represented but most of the work is hardly "representation". Assisting in buying another house/yacht or quietly funnelling money from A to B or other advice on ill gotten gains, are not that.

However, once the entire Russian leadership and the oligarchy are placed before the appropriate tribunal for their heinous crimes, we will see representation.

Jonathan G 05 March 22 13:32

Well done, ROF.  This is the most valuable and thought-provoking piece of journalism I have ever seen on this site.  For my money, the biggest enablers are: Reed Smith, which continues to make millions from Russian state-owned companies and their subsidiaries, particularly in the shipping space; Akin Gump, the London office of which (as noted above) was basically formed to service work from its Russian office; and Skadden, which has well publicised links to both Russian state-owned companies and connected oligarchs.  Please continue to shine a light.  

Anonymous 06 March 22 08:31

People disappointed with silence or weakness of stance from their own firms can resign and go to a firm that has taken a strong position. Junior and mid level corporate and disputes associates will be welcomed with open arms and fat signing bonuses.

Anonymous 06 March 22 08:37

From the Russia report summary, published last year:

Intelligence and Security Committee questions whether Government took its eye off the ball on Russia, finds that they underestimated the response required to the Russian threat and are still playing catch up:

 Russian influence in the UK is the new normal. Successive Governments have welcomed the oligarchs and their money with open arms, providing them with a means of recycling illicit finance through the London ‘laundromat’, and connections at the highest levels with access to UK companies and political figures.

 This has led to a growth industry of ‘enablers’ including lawyers, accountants, and estate agents who are – wittingly or unwittingly – de facto agents of the Russian state.

 It clearly demonstrates the inherent tension between the Government’s prosperity agenda and the need to protect national security. While we cannot now shut the stable door, greater powers and transparency are needed urgently.

 UK is clearly a target for Russian disinformation. While the mechanics of our paper-based voting system are largely sound, we cannot be complacent about a hostile state taking deliberate action with the aim of influencing our democratic processes.

 Yet the defence of those democratic processes has appeared something of a ‘hot potato’, with no one organisation considering itself to be in the lead, or apparently willing to conduct an assessment of such interference. This must change.

The great redeemer 06 March 22 23:15

Weightmans made a good statement pretty quickly totally denouncing the regime in Russia and this has been the message throughout the firm early doors 

I hate the office, I hate WFH, I hate everything 07 March 22 09:49

@ Areal Freshfields lawyer 05 March 22 08:50

Isn’t Freshfields the firm that recent launched a surrogacy/fertility benefits package?  

Anonymous 07 March 22 09:56

Well done RoF, please keep this updated - at the moment there seems particular (shameful) radio silence from big private client firms. Not seen anything from Withers for example, whose Twitter feed seems to have fallen silent.

Anton Anon 07 March 22 10:41

NRF announces it is shutting its Moscow office. 

What’s the position on other City firms with Moscow offices (CC, CMS, BCLP etc.,)

 

Would ROF keep a running tally of those firms shutting their Moscow operations and those that arent please.

 

 

The silence is deafening 07 March 22 16:25

Surely associates would be happy to forego recent salary hikes and excessive bonuses if the most culpable of the big US firms decided to clean up their act, drop their dodgiest clients and take a clear position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Even if it cost a few $$$ million in fees. 
 

I’d also be interested to know which firms have released internal statements to their own employees, even if keeping zipped to the press and the public. Associates should have a right to know what moral stance their employer is taking on this one. 
 

 

Anonymous 07 March 22 19:42

The Silent Six: the US firms conspicuously mute on Russia 

Six US firms have close ties to Russian clients and have notably failed to speak up during the current crisis. 

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Debevoise & Plimpton, Latham & Watkins, Morgan Lewis & Bockius and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flomhave all been conspicuous in their reluctance to issue public statements on the war in Ukraine and what this means for their Russian operations. 

Their ties to the highest levels of Russia’s corporate entities and state bodies are well documented across their websites. Between them, the six firms have acted for the likes of Sberbank, VTB, Alfa-Bank, Norilsk Nickel, Yandex and Gazprom as well as a glittering array of the country’s largest businesses.

The inaction of these six US firms contrasts starkly with the comparatively swift and decisive response demonstrated by several of their UK peers. 

Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer have all issued strongly worded statements of condemnation for the war. However, Linklaters’ magic circle peers have stopped short of announcing the closure of their own Moscow offices at the time of writing.

The magic circle firms have made these announcements despite all of them holding relationships with the same firms as the silent US giants.

Indeed, Freshfields’ announcement that it had “taken steps to terminate” its litigation mandate for VTB in the high-profile Tuna Bond litigation went beyond the necessary government requirements. VTB, Russia’s second largest commercial bank, is a sanctioned entity in the UK, but a general license issued by the Government’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation allows law firm to provide counsel until 1 March, 2023.

Anonymous 07 March 22 22:58

It's rather pathetic that RoF's US counterpart Above the Law continues to wiffle on about salary wars and bonuses with nary a mention of Ukraine. Utterly useless bunch who should be ashamed of themselves. If the editorial team grew a pair they might even contribute to holding the Silent Six US firms to account. But it looks like they would rather be supine BigLaw shills these days. Hey ho.

Anon 08 March 22 02:29

Agree with Isobel. Overly heavy handed blanket approaches are racist and unhelpful to the vast majority of innocent Russian people and organisations who did not choose this war.

Anonymous 08 March 22 15:11

Such cynical behaviour of firms that are happy to celebrate International Women's day, but can't seem to find anything to say about Russia and their approach to Russian clients - Withers being one example. RoF, keep calling them out!

 

Anonymous 09 March 22 08:04

There's no way Mishcon will drop their Russian clients. At most they will ask them to go and hide behind a BVI or Jersey company and fake a trust deed to make it look like it's owned by someone else.

Former Skaddenite 09 March 22 09:45

Skadden London has DEEP ties to Russia and Russian money and all of its extensive corrupt network. I'd wager that it forms quite a bit of that office's money and a good number of the partners made up over the last decade (or who have been made QC..) received their promotions directly on the back of work done for Russian clients. Let's also not forget that Skadden were responsible for that horrible report in December 2012 commissioned by Putin puppet and fellow dictator Viktor Yanukovych (former President of Ukraine), which defended the imprisonment of a political rival. Let's also not forget that one of the London associates was convicted of lying to US Federal investigators and imprisoned. What a sh!t show. 

Anonymous 09 March 22 14:49

There are so many ways law firms can end up acting for Russians without it being seen as such. The client just has to lie about who owns an offshore entity and/or use nominees.

Anonymous 09 March 22 22:17

Why would an institutional investor buy into a Mishcons IPO while there is clearly highly material Russian risk?

Anonymous 09 March 22 23:09

WTF were firms like Latham doing saying nothing for so long and why the hell is Skadden still silent (are they?). They just look like terrible, awful people up to their necks in dirty Russian money who care about nothing but financial gain. Why work for people like this when you have choices.

Hiding in a Shed 10 March 22 07:00

Eversheds announced yesterday that it was closing its Russia offices. 

Anonymous 10 March 22 09:30

I wonder how many associates have quit or are considering quitting Skadden over them being so awful by saying nothing while Putin bombs children's hospitals.

I hate the office. I hate WFH. I hate everything. 10 March 22 14:14

Could ROF ask all the law firms surveyed about Russia if it has a statement it wishes to make about the genocide of the Uyghur people?

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