More Trouble in Russia

ukraine-2014-shutterstockWe’ve just gotten around to reading this post that appeared in The Daily Beast earlier in the week. Writing for the Beast, Bill Conroy accuses New York-based firm Goldin Solutions of shielding a state-owned Russian investment fund from sanctions levied by the US government.

Goldin was hired by The Russian Direct Investment Fund to help improve its reputation within the American business/media communities in the wake of sanctions based on Russia’s recent aggression toward Ukraine. While all major Russian banks were targeted, the RDIF was not despite the fact that it is managed by a state-owned bank.

The larger ethical argument concerns whether the RDIF — which was designed to help bolster Russian businesses working with foreign investors — should be exempt from sanctions because it does not directly support the country’s military. (It also happens to work with executives from many major Western businesses like Goldman Sachs and General Electric.)

According to a Department of Justice filing, Goldin was hired to help make the point that the fund should stand separate from Vladimir Putin’s government and the banks that it owns despite the fact that top members of that government sit on the RDIF’s advisory board.

This is an observation of something that happens often in the PR industry: firms working with foreign governments that need to improve perceptions in the West despite the fact that their goals are rarely on the same page as those of the US government.

Observers who see any work with companies linked to Putin’s administration as anti-American will continue to find such stories scandalous despite the fact that RDIF seems guarded by a fairly thick layer of respectability. We would wonder why major firms take the risk, but check out the monthly retainer.

To answer the headlining question, if this firm “shielded” the RDIF, then so does every other Western company that continues to work with the fund. Whether these services amount to indirect support for the Russian military is a very different subject.

While we’re at it, why do so many American businesses (agencies included) continue to work closely with the Chinese government?