October 26, 2020

Report: Four big firms earned millions from suspect states


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By Nell Gluckman, From The Am Law Daily

Four Am Law 100 firms appear on a list compiled by the Center for Public Integrity ranking professional services firms on the basis of how much money they receive from governments that perform poorly on human rights indices.

The firms included in the ranking are U.S.-based and, within the past five years, have worked for the 50 countries with the worst human rights scores on the Fragile States Index, a list put out by Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit The Fund for Peace that collects reports and data to rate countries based on their human rights records and other metrics.

The Center for Public Integrity, another inside-the-Beltway-based nonprofit that co-published its report Thursday with online newsmagazine Slate, noted that the 50 countries included in their analysis have spent more than $168 million on lobbyists and public relations specialists in the U.S. and that the number of contracts between those countries and stateside firms appears to be growing.

Under the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act, lobbyists must disclose their relationships with foreign entities seeking to influence U.S. policy with the U.S. Department of Justice. The act was passed in 1938 in response to German propaganda agents working in the U.S. prior to World War II.

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman ranked third on the Center for Public Integrity’s list, pulling in $14 million from countries with poor human rights scores since 2010. Most of that sum appears to come from lobbying work done for Saudi Arabia, according to FARA records filed with the Justice Department.

One filing from this November shows that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s embassy to the U.S. paid Pillsbury $15,000 per month between March and December of this year for “general public policy and legislative advice.” A Pillsbury spokesman did not return a request for comment.

Squire Patton Boggs, fourth on the list, earned $11.7 million since 2010, according to the Center for Public Integrity. The firm has done U.S. lobbying work for Cameroon, China, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, according to FARA filings with the Justice Department. The firm did not return a request for comment.

One engagement letter dated June 22, 2015, and disclosed to the Justice Department shows that Squire Patton will be paid a monthly retainer of $35,000 by the People’s Republic of China’s embassy to the U.S. for one year, starting in July 2015.

Another December 2014 filing explained the work Squire Patton Boggs completed for its foreign clients during the second half of that year. The firm advised the Republic of Cameroon on the U.S. Department of State’s reports on human rights and human trafficking, as well as various other U.S. policy developments.

The same document also said that Squire Patton Boggs counseled China on matters related to cybersecurity, the South China Sea and U.S. relations with Taiwan and Hong Kong. The lobbyists sent emails and made calls to dozens of State Department officials and members of Congress on behalf of these clients.

Hogan Lovells ranks eighth in the Center for Public Integrity’s report, having earned $5 million within the past five years from countries with poor human rights scores. Justice Department filings show that the firm conducted “policy advocacy before officials and staff of the legislative and executives branches of the U.S. government” on behalf of Venezuela, whose current government has run afoul of U.S. interests.

Other filings show that Hogan Lovells was paid a monthly retainer of $60,000 by Saudi Arabia’s embassy to the U.S. throughout 2014 in an extension of an engagement that began in 2007. The firm’s work for Saudi Arabia included advocacy before U.S. government officials and media organizations, the document said.

The fourth firm to appear on the Center for Public Integrity’s list was Locke Lord, which has earned $3.7 million since 2010, according to the nonprofit’s analysis. But Locke Lord Strategies, the firm’s lobbying wing, is no longer listed as an active registrant with the Justice Department.

“Locke Lord Strategies represented the country of Pakistan years ago as it fought to restore democracy,” said a Locke Lord spokeswoman. “Our representation ended some time back, when politics changed and new leaders took over. Locke Lord is proud of our commitment to advancing human rights.”

A lobbying contract from 2008 shows that Pakistan’s U.S. embassy paid $75,000 per month to Locke Lord, although the firm subsequently lost its relationship with the Pakistani government in 2013 following the departure of Benazir Bhutto’s widower Asif Ali Zardari as president, according to our previous reports. (Locke Lord enjoyed a close relationship with Bhutto, having helped make a documentary about Pakistan’s former female leader, who was assassinated in 2007.)

The Center for Public Integrity noted that enforcement of FARA is difficult and pointed to a 2014 report by the Project on Government Oversight that found that many U.S. lobbyists working for foreign governments fail to comply with the law.

Photo by iStock

For more on this story go to: http://www.americanlawyer.com/id=1202745301803/Report-Four-Big-Firms-Earned-Millions-From-Suspect-States#ixzz3uzcQZpPK


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  1. Project On Government Oversight (POGO) wrote in Dec 2014 a report called “Loopholes, Filing Failures, and Lax Enforcement: How the Foreign Agents Registration Act Falls Short.”

    Their research shows that “lobbyists for foreign interests have routinely failed to comply with the law.”

    The link to POGO’s report: http://www.pogo.org/our-work/reports/2014/loopholes-filing-failures-lax-enforcement-how-the-foreign-agents-registration-act-falls-short.html

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