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American Express halts relationships with Russia bank partners

American Express (AXP) is joining a growing list of large multinational companies severing ties with Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine.

"Since the beginning of this crisis, we have been complying with U.S. and international sanctions, which has resulted in us halting relationships with impacted bank partners in Russia, and we will continue to comply with all relevant laws as the situation evolves," said American Express Chairman and CEO Stephen Squeri in a memo to employees obtained by Yahoo Finance.

Western allies moved to block "selected" Russian banks from the SWIFT payment system this past weekend. The decision essentially denies Russia access to financial markets globally and opens its economy up to a potentially severe decline.

In light of the sanctions multinational companies such as Mastercard, Visa and BlackRock have sought to distance themselves from doing business in Russia.

Here is the full memo from American Express Chairman and CEO Stephen Squeri:

"Like many of you, I am shocked and saddened by the crisis unfolding in Ukraine, and recognize that some of our colleagues, customers, their families and loved ones, have been affected by the devastating human suffering we have been witnessing. I want to share what we are doing as a company in response to this crisis.

As always, our priority is the safety and wellbeing of our colleagues. While American Express does not employ anyone directly in Ukraine, we do have hundreds of colleagues in the surrounding countries. We also have a small number of colleagues in Russia. To date our colleagues in all these areas have been confirmed safe, for which we are incredibly grateful, and we will continue to do our best to support them.

When it comes to our customers and our business, the situation continues to evolve rapidly. Our business in Russia is small, consisting of one partner that issues cards and a handful that acquire merchants for payment transactions. Since the beginning of this crisis, we have been complying with U.S. and international sanctions, which has resulted in us halting relationships with impacted bank partners in Russia, and we will continue to comply with all relevant laws as the situation evolves.

Throughout history and in terrible times we’ve always done the best to support our customers, and this situation is no different. Some of our customers are providing critical humanitarian aid in the region and risking their lives to report on this crisis, and we will continue to do all that we can to back them.

Cyber security is another key area of focus for us. American Express is taking all necessary steps to detect, prevent, and respond to any malicious activity through our layered defenses. We remain vigilant and will continue to monitor this situation for any threats posed to American Express.

Finally, as we said yesterday, supporting our communities is one of our Blue Box values and we will help those who need it most. Tragically, many people have lost their lives, hundreds of thousands fled their homes and many more have had their worlds turned upside down by the conflict. Further to yesterday’s announcement, we will increase our humanitarian support by giving a total of $1,000,000 in aid to the following organizations that are providing humanitarian assistance to affected populations:

  • $250,000 to our long-standing partners at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to provide necessary resources where they are needed most, including to those who have fled their homes.

  • $250,000 to the International Medical Corps (IMC), which has deployed mobile medical teams, to provide essential emergency and primary health services; mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services; and COVID-19 awareness and prevention services, to help keep affected populations safe from the pandemic.

  • $250,000 will help our long-time crisis-response partners at the American Red Cross to support coordinated relief efforts by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and other Red Cross partners who are responding to urgent needs and providing technical assistance on the ground.

  • $250,000 toward UNICEF’s emergency appeal, launched last week, to support children and families as the crisis escalates, with life-saving programs, safe water, emergency health, hygiene, and education aid and other immediate help for those in need of support.

In addition, we will also match any donations from colleagues globally, through the American Express Match program. Colleagues can access a list of recommended and approved US and international charities via the Match page on The Square. I want to thank our colleagues who have already made contributions since our announcement yesterday.

This is a complicated, difficult and fluid situation. During these times our values are what guide us, and we’re working hard to do what’s right for our colleagues, customers, and communities. Our thoughts are with everyone impacted by this crisis as we continue to hope for peace."

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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