All About the Rubles: Biden Nominee Has Six-Figure Investment in Sanctioned Russian Bank

February 7, 2023

President Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. attorney in Kansas owns hundreds of thousands of dollars in shares of a Russian bank sanctioned for financing the war in Ukraine.

Kate Brubacher and her husband own between $103,000 and $280,000 of Sberbank, Russia’s largest financial institution, according to financial disclosures obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. They also until recently owned a small amount of Russian rubles and received as much as $1 million from an investment in the Moscow Stock Exchange.

While there is no indication that Brubacher’s investments are illegal, they put her at odds with the Biden administration’s tough stance against Russia in the wake of the Ukraine war. The Treasury Department slapped Sberbank with sanctions on Feb. 24, 2022, saying that the state-controlled bank is "uniquely important" to Russia’s economy and helped finance the war. Those sanctions expanded on a round of sanctions placed on Sberbank in 2014, after Russia’s invasion of Crimea. The Treasury Department sanctioned Sberbank chief executive Herman Gref on March 24.

Biden issued an executive order on June 6, 2022, that barred Americans from new purchases of Russian stocks. The order did not force existing shareholders to sell their stakes in Russian firms.

Biden in November nominated Brubacher to lead the U.S. attorney’s office in Kansas. She previously served as assistant district attorney in Jackson County, Mo. The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider her nomination in a hearing on Thursday.

While Brubacher would, if confirmed, be unlikely to handle many Russia-related cases in Kansas, the Justice Department oversees investigations into sanctions violations. The agency has ramped up enforcement of those statutes during the Russia-Ukraine war through indictments against firms doing business with sanctioned companies or the seizure of assets of sanctioned Russians.

It is unclear when Brubacher and her husband, Grayson Murphy, acquired their Sberbank shares. Murphy’s firm, Murphy Investments, Inc., controls between $100,000 and $250,000 of the shares. Murphy has between $2,000 and $30,000 of Sberbank in Individual Retirement Accounts, Brubacher’s disclosure shows.

The investments drew between $15,001 and $50,000 in dividends. Brubacher and Murphy also received between $100,001 and $1 million in capital gains or dividends from the Moscow Stock Exchange.

The White House and Brubacher did not respond to requests for comment.