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White House urging US CEOs to avoid Russian forum

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 6, 2014 at 3:12 pm •  Published: May 6, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top executives at major United States companies are reconsidering or withdrawing their participation in a Russian international economic forum amid requests from the Obama administration in the face of the growing crisis in Ukraine.

Some executives have been pressed to cancel their attendance direct appeals from officials such as Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama.

The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, held this year from May 22-24, is an annual affair prized by Russian President Vladimir Putin as validation of his country's economic influence.

Morgan Stanley Chairman James Gorman, who is listed as a forum participant, has canceled his plans to attend. And Goldman Sachs chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein, also listed as a participant in the forum's website, is also unlikely to participate, a person briefed on the decision said. The person was not authorized to comment publicly by name and insisted on anonymity.

One senior financial services official said Lew placed the calls to CEOs about two weeks ago and that the calls were well-received. He said Lew's emphasis was that top officials not attend, but did not extend the request to lower ranking company executives. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private calls.

Among those who participated in last year's forum but won't this year are Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat, Alcoa chief executive Klaus Kleinfeld and ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance.

"In light of the U.S. government's requirements, Alcoa has adjusted its attendance at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum and will participate via its most senior Russian executives," Alcoa spokeswoman Monica Orbe said in a statement.

Citigroup spokesman Mark Costiglio said that while Corbat would not attend, the company would have several other representatives at the forum.

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