WASHINGTON — House Democrats are notching up pressure on Deutsche Bank’s outside legal counsel, asking again for details of internal investigations into charges that the bank laundered more than $10 billion out of Russia.
Rep. Maxine Waters of California, the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, and other members of the panel initially sent a request for more information on May 23 but were rebuffed by lawyers from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. The firm said federal law prevented the bank and Akin Gump from disclosing customer information.
But House Democrats followed up in a letter this week in which they said the firm failed to cite what law prevented Deutsche Bank from releasing the information. Presuming it to be the Right to Privacy Act, Democrats said that statute was “not intended to apply to requests made by Congress.”
“The legislative branch has never been considered an ‘agency or department,’ and the definition lacks any specific reference to or mention of the legislative branch,” said the letter, which was signed by Waters along with Reps. Dan Kildee of Michigan, Al Green of Texas, Gwen Moore of Wisconsin and Ed Perlmutter of Colorado.
It also says that Steven Ross, who is representing Deutsche Bank and co-leads the law firm’s congressional investigations practice, wrote an article in 2012 acknowledging that the act did not necessarily apply to Congress.
“The positions expressed within this article are inconsistent with Deutsche Bank’s blanket denial of access to the information we requested,” the letter says.
House Democrats are ultimately hoping that the Deutsche investigation will provide more information about President Trump’s business dealings with Russia.
“With respect to the information we sought regarding the accounts of President Trump and his family members, the privacy statutes allow for full disclosure of non-public personal information with the consent of the customers whose information is sought,” the letter says.
In response, Deutsche Bank disagreed with the House Democrats' conclusion.
"We reiterate that while we seek to cooperate, we must obey the law," a representative of the bank said. "Our lawyers will respond to the legal questions raised by the individual members of Congress in due course. In the meantime, we continue to refer the members to the legal basis from our previous response.”