Deutsche Bank Has Tax Returns Sought by House Democrats

August 28, 2019by Chris Dolmetsch
A flag flies outside the Deutsche Bank headquarters on Wall Street in New York on October 17, 2016. (Richard B. Levine/Sipa USA/TNS)

NEW YORK — Deutsche Bank AG has confirmed that it has tax returns requested by U.S. lawmakers seeking financial information for President Donald Trump and his family. Whose returns are those? That’s still a secret.

The disclosure was made by the bank in a letter filed Tuesday in response to a question from an appeals court. The panel is considering a request from Trump to block access to financial records at Deutsche Bank and Capital One Financial Corp. that were subpoenaed by House Democrats. In a separate letter, Capital One said it does not possess the tax returns being sought.

The appellate judges had asked if the banks actually had the records. Deutsche Bank and Capital One declined to answer the question in open court, citing laws and customer privacy agreements, but agreed to file the information under seal.

Trump, his children Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka, and his businesses sued the banks in April to block them from complying with the demand from lawmakers to turn over financial information. A federal judge in May rejected that request, and Trump has appealed.

In its filing Tuesday, Deutsche Bank said it has tax returns — in either draft or as-filed form — responsive to the subpoenas. The names were redacted. The bank also said it has “such documents related to parties not named in the subpoenas but who may constitute ‘immediate family’ within the definition provided by the subpoenas.”

Deutsche Bank said it does not believe it possesses tax returns responsive to the subpoenas for any individuals other than the people it identified. The bank said it is reluctant to publicly identify information related to tax returns for specific individuals because of “statutory, contractual and privacy concerns.”

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act generally prohibits banks from disclosing nonpublic personal information of customers to a third party if the customer hasn’t consented, although the law may allow financial institutions to give out some nonpublic personal information to comply with a subpoena or other legal request, Deutsche Bank said.

Confirming possession of tax returns confirms a bank’s relationship with individuals and reveals information about the nature of the business the company has had or has contemplated with them, according to the letter.

The names of certain individuals were redacted to strike an appropriate balance with the court’s order and client privacy considerations, according to the letter. The bank also said it has contracts that include provisions related to how confidential information is treated — including circumstances when limited disclosures are allowed.

Spokespersons for the committees and their members declined to comment on the letter.

It is unclear if the bank’s acknowledgment that it possesses some tax returns will be regarded or argued by the House Democrats as a possible waiver against the privacy of those records, having been shared with a third-party. There has been no immediate response to the news from Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office or Democrats who control the House Ways and Means and Judiciary committees.

The House committees told the court in a letter earlier Tuesday that a law prohibiting certain disclosures of tax returns or return information doesn’t apply if the banks obtained that information from Trump or any of the other plaintiffs, and not from the IRS. They also said it wouldn’t apply if they got the information from the IRS at the request or consent of Trump or any other plaintiffs.

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With assistance from Billy House.

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©2019 Bloomberg News

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