Press release | March 4, 2020

Congress must have power to subpoena financial documents

Global Witness statement on the Supreme Court case on Congressional subpoenas of Donald Trump’s financial documents.

March 4, 2020 – Washington, D.C.: Today, experts on money laundering and financial investigations, including two Global Witness staff, filed an amicus brief in support of Congress’ authority to subpoena Donald Trump’s financial documents from Deutsche Bank and Capital One. The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for this case for March 31, 2020. *Update: In response to COVID-19, the court rescheduled oral arguments for this case for May 12, 2020.

Our brief speaks to Congress’ legislative power and the importance of subpoenas and investigations for Congress’ ability to create strong anti-money laundering laws. It is a historic moment for the fight against illicit money in the US. Global Witness joins other financial and money laundering experts in urging the Supreme Court to side with Congress.

Stefanie Ostfeld, Deputy Head of Global Witness’ US office, said:

“Global Witness has uncovered corruption, money laundering and illicit financial transactions across the world, including in the US, for over 25 years. Time and again, we see how the corrupt and other actors take advantage of money laundering loopholes in the US to hide, steal or spend dirty money.

As the Supreme Court takes on this historic case, it must affirm Congress’ right to subpoena financial documents, whether or not they involve the President. Understanding how money laundering works is critical to passing reforms needed to protect the US financial system from corrupt influence.

For over a decade, Global Witness has fought for anti-money laundering reforms to make it more difficult for illicit actors to exploit aspects of the global financial system to launder their ill gotten gains. 

Our investigations have shown how easily anonymously-owned shell companies – incorporated right here in the US – can be used as vehicles for the corrupt and other criminals to operate in secrecy and under the radar. They’ve also shown how financial institutions and professionals are able to exploit gaps in anti-money laundering laws on behalf of their clients who want to avoid detection and accountability.  

Such investigations have helped to inform necessary legislative solutions: for example, the recent bipartisan anti-money laundering bills that passed the House of Representatives in October 2019. The Senate is now considering similar anti-money laundering reform measures.   

No one is above the law. This case is not exclusive just to President Trump. The threats posed by illicit finance existed before President Trump and will be here after Trump unless we act now.”



Notes to editor:

The amicus brief can be found here. The brief references two Global Witness investigations: one that revealed how Trump made millions selling his name to a Panama real estate development that was used to launder drug money. This development was known as the Trump Ocean Club in Panama. NBC and Reuters coverage of this investigation can be found here and here.

The brief also references our investigation into a politically exposed person purchasing a luxury condo in Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York City that brought attention to the lack of anti-money laundering obligations on real estate professionals and lawyers who carry out transactions for their clients. New York Times coverage of this investigation can be found here.

The Supreme Court case involves subpoenas of financial records from Deutsche Bank and Capital One by the Committee on Financial Services and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the US House of Representatives.   

The two Global Witness staff who signed onto the briefing:

  • Mike Davis, CEO of Global Witness
  • Stefanie Ostfeld, Deputy Head of Global Witness’ US Office 

Preview image credit: LILLISPHOTOGRAPHY/

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