Deutsche Bank said it can't comply with a request to hand over information related to its relationship with Donald Trump and trades from the bank's Moscow operation as political opponents seek to probe the U.S. President's links with Russia.
The lender is required by law to maintain confidentiality of non-public customer information, Deutsche Bank lawyers said in a letter responding to a request from five Democratic Party lawmakers to hand over its findings on loans made to Trump and trades made from Moscow. Known as the "mirror trading" scandal, the trades helped move about $10 billion out of the country.
"Deutsche Bank, like other financial institutions, is not permitted to disclose details related to its customers," lawyers Steven R. Ross and Leslie B. Kiernan of Akin Gump said in a letter published on the bank's website Friday. "This is true even if the individual is a government official or well-known person, and even in circumstances where the individual has made some disclosure regarding their relationship with their banking institution."
Deutsche Bank's lending to Trump before he was elected amounted to more than $300 million, including loans for Chicago's Trump Tower, the Doral golf resort in Florida, and a Washington, D.C., hotel, according to a Bloomberg analysis.
The bank's relationship with Trump has come under heightened public scrutiny since the former real-estate tycoon was elected president in November. Several Democratic members of Congress, led by Representative Maxine Waters of California on the House Financial Services Committee, have started public attempts aimed at pressuring Deutsche Bank to reveal details on its dealings with Trump, largely citing concerns that the administration may treat the German lender's executives more leniently.
The same group of Democrats demanded in March that Rep. Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the committee, hold a hearing to explore the bank's conduct in the Russian mirror-trading scandal, as part of an effort to ensure that the Justice Department investigation wasn't influenced by the lender's relationship with Trump.
"President Trump's conflict of interest with Deutsche Bank ... may undermine the independence and impartiality of the Department's ongoing investigation and diminish the likelihood that Deutsche Bank and its senior leadership will be brought to justice," the lawmakers wrote in March.
The mirror-trading scheme allowed some of the bank's wealthy clients in Moscow to convert rubles into western currency through the simultaneous purchase and sale of publicly traded shares, investigators have found.
While Deutsche Bank has reached settlements on the Russia deals with several financial watchdogs, it has yet to conclude the probe that is being conducted by the DOJ. As part of those settlements, the New York Department of Financial Services fined the bank $425 million and mandated an independent monitor to review its anti-money laundering programs.
As the minority party in Congress, the Democrats don't have the power to force Deutsche Bank to make any disclosures. But the public information requests have elicited a strong media reaction in Germany and have compelled the bank to publish its response to the lawmakers.
A deadline for the bank to respond to the Democrats' latest request expired on June 2. A spokesman for the lender told Bloomberg Tuesday that it would be unable to comply with the lawmakers' request to disclose information on individual clients. Instead, the bank pointed the lawmakers to documents made public after the bank settled probes into its Russia deals with the New York Department of Financial Services and the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority.
"While we seek to cooperate, we must obey the law," Deutsche Bank's lawyers wrote in the letter on Friday.
The bank's shares rose 0.3 percent to 15.67 euros at 2:39 p.m. in Frankfurt.
In their May request addressed to Chief Executive Officer John Cryan, the Democratic House representatives cited Deutsche Bank's previous compliance failures as a reason for their request. Along with the internal review of the Russian stock-trading scheme, they asked for any internal correspondence and communications related to the internal review of loans extended to Trump and his immediate family members.