A settlement agreement struck between Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and the Justice Department over the firm’s past work for the Ukrainian government has thrust former firm partner Greg Craig back under the spotlight.
The civil settlement, signed Jan. 15, resolves an inquiry initiated by the Justice Department into whether the firm violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act for work it conducted for Ukraine beginning in 2012. Under the agreement, Skadden has agreed to retroactively register as a foreign agent of the Ukrainian government and will pay the U.S. Treasury over $4.6 million, which covers the money it made working for Ukraine.
That work—involving a report on the 2011 prosecution of a former Ukrainian prime minister, and a public relations campaign tied to the report—has brought controversy for the firm, in part because it is tied to special counsel Robert Mueller III’s prosecution of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Several Skadden partners and associates worked on the report, according to the settlement agreement, but the work was led by a Washington, D.C.-based partner. While the agreement does not directly identify the partner, the person is widely understood to be former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig, who retired from Skadden in April 2018. The Thursday’s settlement agreement acknowledged the unnamed partner left the firm on April 13, 2018.
Craig declined to comment Thursday, as did one of his attorneys William Taylor III of Zuckerman Spaeder.
Taylor said in a statement in September, “Greg Craig was not required to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.”
Skadden and the unnamed partner helped roll out the report in a public relations campaign, which included speaking with a journalist at a national newspaper and providing a quote for coverage on the report, according to the agreement.
Responding to “multiple inquiries” from the Justice Department in 2012 and 2013 about its work, Skadden “in reliance on the lead partner, made false and misleading statements” about how it shared its report with the newspaper, the DOJ said. Those statements led to a conclusion that Skadden was not obligated to register under FARA. But facts later showed that Skadden was indeed required to register.
Skadden, in a statement, said the agreement “brings the firm closure with the U.S. government regarding issues relating to a report we produced for the Government of Ukraine in 2012.”
“We have learned much from this incident and are taking steps to prevent anything similar from happening again,” the firm said.
But the settlement agreement raises new questions about what’s next for Craig. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are reportedly weighing criminal charges against Craig over his work for Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Justice—with the help of Manafort, a long time lobbyist—first hired Skadden in 2012 to pen a report on the 2011 prosecution and trial of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Tymoshenko was the political rival of one of Manafort’s top clients, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
The settlement agreement said “Skadden has already taken substantial steps to comply with its terms, and so long as the firm continues to comply with it, the Department will not undertake any action against the firm” related to its conduct in the matter.
It also said Skadden has “cooperated extensively” with the attorney general in the investigation, including with the special counsel’s office and the Justice Department’s National Security Division. The agreement said Skadden will “undertake continuing cooperation with all Attorney General inquiries” relating to the firm’s work for Ukraine.
Thursday’s settlement is the latest black eye for the firm. Alexander van der Zwaan, a former Skadden associate, was sentenced to 30 days in jail in April 2018 for repeatedly lying to the special counsel team investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Van der Zwaan pleaded guilty to a single charge that he lied about past communications with former Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates and an unnamed Ukrainian associate of Manafort.
Read Skadden’s settlement agreement here: