Deutsche Bank officials in the U.S. reported to federal regulators that it was concerned about a business deal with Russia, The New York Times reported on Thursday (Oct. 31).
The bank sold its $72 million stake in a California office complex to a Russian firm with ties to the son of a former top Kremlin official. Although the sale was not illegal, U.S. authorities at the German bank worried about how it would look to the public. The bank’s Frankfurt headquarters gave it the green light anyway.
When the deal was finalized, Deutsche Bank officials in the U.S. “took the rare step” of reporting it as suspicious to the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, three sources told the NYT.
At the time, Deutsche Bank was under fire for reportedly helping Russians launder money. It was also being investigated for other money laundering transactions in addition to political inquiries about its relationship with President Trump.
Deutsche Bank spokesman Sebastian Kraemer-Bach told the outlet that nothing about the transaction was found to be in violation of anti-money laundering laws.
“As a result, the discussion of whether to move forward with the transaction was focused on reputational considerations,” Kraemer-Bach told the news outlet. “In this case, there was a reputational risk attached to either decision — whether to halt the sale or to move forward with it.” He added that sale proceeds went to investors in the Deutsche Bank fund.
Since the late 1990s, Deutsche Bank has been the sole mainstream lender that has allowed Trump and his companies to borrow money. The bank’s relationship with Trump is now being probed by two congressional committees.
Last month, U.S. congressional investigators discovered possible failures in Deutsche Bank’s money-laundering controls. Deutsche handed over numerous transaction records, emails and other documents. Investigators also discovered instances when staff noted concerns about new and existing Russian clients, only to be ignored by managers.
The investigation, which is also looking into whether the lender acted as a correspondent bank to facilitate the movement of illegal funds into the United States, is in the early stages.