Update 2/28/2022: Former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens has now resigned from his supervisory board.
Former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens is the chairman of the supervisory board of the Credit Bank of Moscow, which has been barred by the Biden administration from issuing shares and debt in the U.S. after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The Credit Bank of Moscow is owned by investors and not the state. It is one of Russia’s largest banks.
Owens, a Republican, told The Colorado Sun that the bank has no ties to the Russian government and that it’s listed on the Russian stock exchange. He said that he’s not aware of the Credit Bank of Moscow planning to issue shares or debt in the U.S. regardless of the limitations, and he said he has no shares or debt in the bank.
“CBM has thousands of investors, including one of our largest — the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development,” Owens told The Sun in an email. “I represent these independent investors. … Our board has a majority of ‘western’ directors including two Americans, two Germans, as well as individuals from the U.K. and Finland.”
Roman Ivanovich Avdeev is listed as the Credit Bank of Moscow’s “main beneficial owner.” He created Rossium Concern LLC, a holding company that owns 55% of the bank’s shares, and is among the world’s wealthiest people. Avdeev is not among the Russians personally sanctioned by the U.S. and other nations.
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Owens, who was Colorado’s governor from 1999 to 2007, said he would resign from the board if the U.S. were to sanction the Credit Bank of Moscow. He has been on the supervisory board since November 2012 and has been chairman since April 2013.
In addition to his work for the Credit Bank of Moscow, Owens is a senior director at the law firm GreenbergTraurig where his areas of focus include public policy, energy and Russia. His bio at the firm says he “has been actively involved in the Soviet Union and Russia since the 1980s.”
Credit Bank of Moscow is “not in any way financing the Ukraine invasion,” Owens said.
Owens said he was disappointed by President Joe Biden’s “relatively mild sanctions” against Russia after the invasion, “though I understand he was apparently constrained by some of our allies.”
“Ukraine is a free and independent nation which was brutally attacked in an unprovoked way by Russia,” Owens said. “I believe the U.S. and our allies should stand for Ukraine, as they stand for us all.”
The Biden administration has issued sanctions against state-owned banks and financial institutions in Russia, including Sberbank, VTB Bank, Bank Otkritie, Sovcombank OJSC and Novikombank.
Credit Bank of Moscow is among “13 of the most critical major Russian enterprises and entities” slapped by the White House with new debt and equity restrictions.
Meanwhile, the Public Employees’ Retirement Association, Colorado’s public pension system, is preparing to divest as much as $8 million from Russian banks and companies, including Sberbank, OGK-2, Gazprom, Mosenergo and Rosneft Oil.
Sberbank is the only Russian bank or company that PERA is invested in that is currently on the sanctions list. PERA has until May 25 to divest from Sberbank.
The Denver Post, which was first to report PERA’s divestment intentions, said PERA has $7.2 million invested in Sberbank.
The $8 million is just a fraction of PERA’s $61 billion portfolio.
Patrick von Keyserling, a spokesman for PERA, said the pension system is moving to divest the money after Gov. Jared Polis made a request Thursday to the PERA board “that is consistent with what has been included in the federal mandates pertaining to sanctions on Russian-owned assets.”
“U.S. sanctions remain fluid and include a combination of freezing assets, divesting of assets and not investing additional funds in Russian assets,” von Keyserling said in a written statement. “PERA is reviewing and preparing to implement the federal mandates within the required time specifications.”