Wall Street reaped ruble fortune on clients fleeing Russia
Compared to a year ago, it looks like trading revenue in Wall Street has slumped. However, there is a rarely mentioned reason for last year’s boom: a billion-dollar windfall that went from Russia through some of the former Soviet republics into the hands of Wall Street’s currency traders.
According to a Bloomberg article, as companies and investors hurried to leave Russia following the invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing international sanctions, they were desperate to change their rubles into dollars. Sources close to the transactions told Bloomberg that currency traders in Wall Street found a way to buy dollars at a low price and then sold them to those leaving Russia for a healthy markup without running afoul of sanctions.
The sources said that the traders used lenders in countries supposedly friendly with Russia and not sanctioned by the USA, such as Kazakhstan and Armenia. Those lenders bought dollars from Russian banks around that country’s local exchange rate, which was then much lower than what was quoted abroad.
Bloomberg said that the Wall Street firms that benefited from this scheme have not been accused of any wrongdoing or of violating sanctions.
Anna Bradshaw spoke to Bloomberg, saying:
“All those banks will be very heavily lawyered up. It’s difficult to see how they could at that stage have collectively engaged in that without a lawyer at least one of those banks going bananas if there had been a sanctions breach.”
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