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Big Law Firms Withdraw From Sberbank as VTB Finds New Attorneys

June 3, 2022, 3:04 PM

Two Big Law firms are formally stepping away from sanctioned Russian bank Sberbank in a lawsuit over a 2014 attack on a civilian jetliner in Ukraine.

White & Case and Debevoise & Plimpton asked a federal judge Thursday in Manhattan to grant their release from the case, formalizing a request to withdraw they had telegraphed for weeks following Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The parents of Quinn Schansman, a U.S. man who died in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, are suing Sberbank and others in a federal court in Manhattan. They allege that Sberbank and other Russian banks provided financing to the Donetsk People’s Republic, which they say is a terrorist group responsible for the attack that killed 298 people.

Latham & Watkins is in the process of withdrawing its representation of Russia’s VTB Bank in the same case. The firm on Thursday said VTB had come to an agreement in principle to hire Marc Agnifilo and Zach Intrater of Brafman & Associates, a boutique defense firm in New York.

Agnifilo recently represented the ex-Goldman Sachs banker, Roger Ng, in a trial over fraud charges related to the 1MDB scandal. Ng was convicted by a jury in April on all three counts in the case, including conspiring to violate U.S. anti-bribery laws and conspiring to launder money.

Many U.S. law firms have closed their Russian offices and stepped away from representing Russian clients since the invasion of Ukraine and ensuing sanctions.

Those sanctions are causing a delay in Agnifilo and Intrater’s hiring by VTB, Latham’s lawyers wrote, causing them to ask a judge to extend a deadline for the lawyers to file an appearance until June 15.

Agnifilo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Roy Strom in Chicago at rstrom@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com