Behind a set of imposing metal doors in an easy-to-miss office building in a New York City suburb, a small team manages billions of dollars for a Russian oligarch.
For years, a group of wealthy Russians have used Concord Management, a financial-advisory company in Tarrytown, N.Y., to secretly invest money in large U.S. hedge funds and private equity firms, according to people familiar with the matter.
A web of offshore shell companies makes it hard to know for sure whose money Concord manages. But several of the people said the bulk of the funds belonged to Roman Abramovich, a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
Concord is part of a constellation of American and European advisers — including some of the world’s largest law firms — that have long helped Russian oligarchs navigate the Western financial, legal, political and media landscapes.
both said they were leaving Russia. A spokeswoman for another large firm, Debevoise & Plimpton, said it was terminating several client relationships and would not take any new clients in Moscow. Ashurst, a large London-based law firm, said it would not “act for any new or existing Russian clients, whether or not they are subject to sanctions.”
The accounting giants PwC, KPMG, Deloitte and EY — which have provided extensive services to oligarchs and their networks of offshore shell companies — also said they were leaving Russia or severing ties with their local affiliates.
wrote a letter to the White House arguing that Russia’s Sovcombank shouldn’t face sanctions, citing the bank’s commitment to gender equity, environmental and social responsibility.
Sovcombank had agreed to pay the lobbyist’s firm, Mercury Public Affairs, $90,000 a month for its work.
The Biden administration recently imposed sanctions on Sovcombank. Within hours of the announcement, Mercury filed paperwork with the Justice Department indicating that it was terminating its contract with Sovcombank.
As recently as mid-February, the British law firm Schillings represented the Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, a longtime ally of Mr. Putin.
Two weeks later, the European Union and the U.S. Treasury placed sanctions on Mr. Usmanov. Nigel Higgins, a spokesman for Schillings, said the firm is “not acting for any sanctioned individuals or entities.”
say on its website that it represents “some of Russia’s largest companies,” including Gazprom and VTB. The firm said it was “reviewing and adjusting our Russia-related operations and client work” to comply with sanctions.
In Washington, Erich Ferrari, a leading sanctions lawyer, is suing the Treasury on behalf of Mr. Deripaska, who is seeking to overturn sanctions imposed on him in 2018 that he claims have cost him billions of dollars and made him “radioactive” in international business circles.
And the lobbyist Robert Stryk said he had recently had conversations about representing several Russian oligarchs and companies currently under sanctions. He previously represented clients targeted by sanctions, including the administrations of President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela and former President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mr. Stryk said he would consider taking the work if the Treasury Department provided him with the necessary licenses, and if the prospective clients opposed Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
online profiles of current and former Concord employees.
The Russia-Ukraine War and the Global Economy
Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers who have interacted with Concord and its founder, Michael Matlin, said it oversaw between $4 billion and $8 billion.
It isn’t clear how much of that belongs to Mr. Abramovich, whose fortune is estimated at $13 billion.
Mr. Abramovich has not been placed under sanctions. His spokeswoman, Rola Brentlin, declined to comment on Concord.
Over the years, Concord has steered its clients’ money into marquee financial institutions: the global money manager BlackRock, the private equity firm Carlyle Group and a fund run by John Paulson, who famously anticipated the collapse of the U.S. housing market. Concord also invested with Bernard Madoff, who died in prison after being convicted of a vast Ponzi scheme.
panel focused on European security, requested that the U.S. government impose sanctions on Mr. Abramovich and seize the assets at Concord, “as this blood money presents a flight risk.”
The work performed by law, lobbying and public relations firms often plays out in public or is disclosed in legal or foreign agent filings, but that is rarely the case in the financial arena.
While Russian oligarchs make tabloid headlines for shelling out for extravagant superyachts and palatial homes, their bigger investments often occur out of public view, thanks to a largely invisible network of financial advisory firms like Concord.
Hedge fund managers and their advisers said they were starting to examine their investor lists to see if any clients were under sanctions. If so, their money needs to be segregated and disclosed to the Treasury Department.
Some hedge funds are also considering returning money to oligarchs who aren’t under sanctions, fearful that Russians might soon be targeted by U.S. and European authorities.
Paradise Papers project, involved the files of the Appleby law firm in Bermuda. At least four clients owned private jets through shell companies managed by Appleby.
When sanctions were imposed on companies and individuals linked to Mr. Putin in 2014, Appleby jettisoned clients it believed were affected.
The Russians found other Western firms, including Credit Suisse, to help fill the void.
Ben Freeman, who tracks foreign influence for the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, said Russians were likely to find new firms this time, too.
“There is that initial backlash, where these clients are too toxic,” Mr. Freeman said. “But when these lucrative contracts are out there, it gets to be too much for some people, and they can turn a blind eye to any atrocity.”
David Segal contributed reporting. Susan Beachy contributed research.
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