Updated at 5:06 p.m.
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton this week notified Congress it is lobbying on anti-Iran sanctions bills for the international financial messaging network that most banks use for money transfers.
The law firm is advocating for the Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) on the Senate's Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Human Rights Act and related legislation in the House, according to a lobbying registration report filed with Congress. The bills would impose sanctions on SWIFT if the cooperative assists Iranian financial institutions with their transactions.
The Senate Banking Committee approved the Senate's Iran sanctions act last month. The House’s measure has yet to receive a vote in committee.
SWIFT, which provides services to more than 10,000 institutions in 210 countries, says it is open to stopping its services to Iranian financial establishments. In a statement issued Feb. 17 in response to European Union legislation on anti-Iran sanctions, the cooperative said it is “ready to act.”
Blanche Petre, SWIFT’s general counsel, was in Washington last month for discussions on the US legislation, Bloomberg reported. At the talks, Petre said the cooperative is prepared to sever its ties to Iran’s central bank and the country’s institutions that the EU sanctioned.
In a recent statement on its Web site about the Senate bill, SWIFT said it "fully understands and appreciates the gravity of the situation."
"We are working with US and EU authorities, as well as discussing with the G10 central banks which oversee SWIFT, to find the right multilateral legal framework which will enable SWIFT to address the issues," the statement says.
SWIFT doesn't take a position on the US legislation in the statement. But the cooperative notes that the actions under consideration in the EU and US "will provide clarity and legal certainty concerning SWIFT's ability to expedite an effective response."
Washington-based Cleary partners Kenneth Bachman Jr. and Paul Marquardt are handling the SWIFT account. Bachman declined to comment—including about whether SWIFT is actively opposing or supporting the congressional legislation, and if so, why.
Cleary is the second firm this year to tell Congress it is lobbying for SWIFT. APCO Worldwide Inc. submitted registration paperwork in February. A D.C.-based APCO lobbyist on the account, Chris McCannell, directed questions to SWIFT spokeswoman Eva Zaeschmar.
The spokeswoman declined to comment on lobbying related to the U.S. bills. When asked about the cooperative's position on the measures, she referred The National Law Journal to the SWIFT Web site.
APCO and Cleary are the only firms registered to lobby for SWIFT. The firms also are the cooperative’s first federal lobbyists, according to congressional lobbying records that date back to 1999.