The Wall Street law firm Skadden Arps, one of the largest firms in the world with 1,700 attorneys, admitted to misleading the Justice Department in 2012 about the nature of the work it did for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and the Kremlin-aligned Ukrainian government, as part of a settlement with the DOJ announced Thursday.
The global firm, with reported annual revenue above $2.5 billion, will pay $4.6 million to the government and will retroactively register as a foreign agent under the under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA.
The investigation into the firm’s work, though handled by the Justice Department’s National Security division, grew out of the Mueller investigation and the special counsel’s examination of Paul Manafort’s political consulting in Ukraine. The work that was under investigation was a 2012 report that Skadden prepared for Kremlin-backed President Viktor Yanukovych to use against his political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko. Yanukovych used Skadden’s assessment of a corruption proceeding against Tymoshenko to bolster the state’s case in the trial that was seen by many as a political hit job.
“Skadden initially denied to the Justice Department that it proactively sought out reporters to publicize the paper, according to the settlement, but later acknowledged one of its partners did so and was involved in the rollout,” according to the Wall Street Journal. “The Justice Department said one of the law firm’s former partners, identifiable as former Obama White House counsel Gregory Craig, provided misleading information to the FARA registration unit in 2012 and 2013 when it requested information on the extent of the firm’s work in Ukraine.” Last year, another Skadden attorney, Alex van der Zwaan, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and was sentenced to 30 days in prison. Van der Zwann, a junior lawyer who was based at the firm’s London office, also happens to be the son-in-law of a Russian oligarch who is one of the country’s richest men.
“The settlement between the firm and the Justice Department, which was made public on Thursday, is the latest indication that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry and related investigations are fundamentally challenging the lucrative but shadowy foreign-lobbying industry that has thrived in Washington,” according to the New York Times. “The Justice Department, which is charged with enforcing the 80-year-old act, had largely turned a blind eye until Mr. Mueller began charging Mr. Trump’s associates, including Mr. Manafort, who had built a lucrative business advising Russia-aligned politicians and wealthy business executives in Ukraine.”