Russia To Seize $440 Million From JPMorgan


Seizing assets? Two can play at that game…

Just days after Washington voted to authorize the REPO Act – paving the way for the Biden administration confiscate billions in Russian sovereign assets which sit in US banks – it appears Moscow has a plan of its own (let’s call it the REVERSE REPO Act) as a Russian court has ordered the seizure of $440 million from JPMorgan.

The seizure order follows from Kremlin-run lender VTB launching legal action against the largest US bank to recoup money stuck under Washington’s sanctions regime.

As The FT reports, the order, published in the Russian court register on Wednesday, targets funds in JPMorgan’s accounts and shares in its Russian subsidiaries, according to the ruling issued by the arbitration court in St Petersburg.

The assets had been frozen by authorities in the wake of the western sanctions, and highlights some of the fallout western companies are feeling from the punitive measures against Moscow.

Specifically, The FT notes that the dispute centers on $439mn in funds that VTB held in a JPMorgan account in the US.

When Washington imposed sanctions on the Kremlin-run bank, JPMorgan had to move the funds to a separate escrow account. Under the US sanctions regime, neither VTB nor JPMorgan can access the funds.

In response, VTB last week filed a lawsuit against the New York-based group to get Russian authorities to freeze the equivalent amount in Russia, warning that JPMorgan was seeking to leave Russia and would refuse to pay any compensation.

The following day, JPMorgan filed its own lawsuit against the Russian lender in a US court to prevent a seizure of its assets, arguing that it had no way to reclaim VTB’s stranded US funds to compensate its own potential losses from the Russian lawsuit.

Yesterday’s decision sided with VTB, ordering the seizure of funds in JPMorgan’s Russian accounts and “movable and immovable property,” including its stake of a Russian subsidiary.

JPMorgan said it faced “certain and irreparable harm” from VTB’s efforts, exposed to a nearly half-billion-dollar loss, for merely abiding by U.S. sanctions.

The order was the latest example of American banks getting caught between the demands of Western sanctions regimes and overseas interests. Last summer, a Russian court froze about $36mn worth of assets owned by Goldman following a lawsuit by state-owned bank Otkritie. A few months later the court ruled that the Wall Street investment bank had to pay the funds to Otkritie.

The tit-for-tat continues.


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