— Forbes (@Forbes) March 20, 2014
The Securities and Exchange Commission is contacting public funds with exposure to Russian investments in order to ensure they were prepared for the effects of political instability as tensions rose over Crimea. According to Reuters the calls made by attorneys with the SEC were not related to any investigation.
One part of the crisis in Ukraine that seems to be getting left out of the mix is how interconnected many American businesses are now with Russia. Unlike in the Cold War, many American firms both do business in Russia and invest in those doing business in Russia.
The people familiar with the calls say SEC lawyers are not trying to tell funds how to invest, advice which would not be in the SEC’s mission. Rather, the regulators are focused on whether funds are being open with investors, and whether the funds are thinking and preparing about how they might respond to different scenarios or outcomes...
Funds with at least 10 percent exposure to Russian stocks include the ING Russian Fund, T Rowe Price Emerging Europe Fund, Fidelity Emerging Europe Middle East Africa Fund, Goldman Sachs BRIC Fund and the Templeton BRIC Fund, according to a list compiled by Lipper, a unit of Thomson Reuters.
BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) Funds became popular in the 1990s as globalization took off when the Cold War ended. Despite lingering tensions, many American and international firms have made investments in Russia and could lose business if serious and broad sanctions are enacted.
One of the companies most involved with the Kremlin is a near universal symbol of American corporate power, Exxon Mobil. Exxon Mobil’s CEO, Rex Tillerson, is said to have a good relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In fact, Exxon is planning one of the biggest joint ventures in history with a Russian state-owned enterprise:
Exxon’s landmark 2011 joint venture with Kremlin-controlled Rosneft calls for upwards of $500 billion in investment over the coming decades. The companies are planning an offshore drilling campaign in Russia’s frozen Chukchi Sea, Laptev Sea and Kara Sea, as well as the Black Sea. They’ll also be drilling onshore in western Siberia, where the Bazhenov and Achimov formations are thought to be many times bigger than the Bakken shale of North Dakota. In addition, Exxon and Rosneft are working to finalize designs for an LNG project in Russia’s far east.
That’s 500 billion reasons to play nice with the Russians, but also to try and rein in belligerence coming from Washington.
Though if all that stands between another Cold War is Corporate America I’m not sure we should feel very secure.