Treasury Drops Sanctions Against Rusal After Striking Deal With Russian Oligarch

Offering some relief to industrial firms in the US and Europe, which have struggled with higher aluminum prices (on top of Trump's tariffs on aluminum entering the US), the Treasury announced on Wednesday that it has struck a deal with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska to remove sanctions on Rusal, En+ Group Plc and JSC EuroSibEnergo in exchange for Deripaska reducing his ownership stake in each company below 50%, committing to a "complete overhaul" of each company's board, and agreeing to "unprecedented transparency" (including agreeing to auditing, reporting and certification) in the companies' operations.

The announcement is the result of months of negotiations between Deripaska and the Treasury after the latter added the former and his companies to the US sanctions list in April - a move that made Rusal, the world's largest aluminum producer outside of China, the largest company to ever be sanctioned by the Treasury. Since April, aluminum prices have climbed while shares of the firms, which trade in London, have fallen by more than $9 bilion, according to Bloomberg.

Deripaska

Oleg Deripaska

The move is also the result of intense lobbying by Deripaska's lobbyists in DC, as well as from European diplomats, as many European diplomats depend on Rusal for aluminum and EuroSibEnergo (both companies are owned in part by EN+ Group) for coal,LNG and other vital resources.

The companies will be officially relieved of sanctions in 30 days, unless Congress votes to continue the sanctions. Deripaska and his companies were sanctioned in April as part of the US's response for allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

According to the Financial Times, Deripaska has already ripped up shareholder agreements that gave him control over the two companies, sacked executives close to him and installed new independent directors.

In his statement, Mnuchin noted that Deripaska, not his companies, was the intended target of the sanctions, and that the oligarch, who purportedly has close ties to the Kremlin, would remain on the sanctions list.

"Treasury sanctioned these companies because of their ownership and control by sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, not for the conduct of the companies themselves," Steven Mnuchin, US Treasury secretary, said in a statement."

"These companies have committed to significantly diminish Deripaska’s ownership and sever his control," Mr Mnuchin said. "The companies will be subject to ongoing compliance and will face severe consequences if they fail to comply. [The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control] maintains the ability under the terms of the agreement to have unprecedented levels of transparency into operations."

Deripaska’s agreement with Treasury includes cutting his direct and indirect share ownership below 50%. The oligarch’s stake in EN+ will fall from approximately 70% to 44.95%, according to a letter from the Treasury Department, which was addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Despite giving Deripaska the shaft, escaping the perception that he's still somehow kowtowing to the Kremlin won't come so easy. As one Washington Post reporter pointed out, Deripaska will be attending the World Economic Forum in Davos; Trump and Mnuchin are also planning to attend for the second year in a row, according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.