The special counsel’s office on Tuesday publicly praised Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom for its cooperation in a U.S. Justice Department foreign-lobbying investigation, drawing a distinction between the New York law firm and an indicted Russian company that claims it is unfairly facing criminal prosecution.
Defense lawyers for the Russian firm Concord Management and Consulting, charged with participating in a plot to interfere in the 2016 election, argue the company is the victim of selective prosecution and should be allowed to probe how Skadden inked a civil settlement with prosecutors and was not charged in any criminal case.
Skadden last month agreed to pay $4.6 million to resolve claims that the law firm failed to properly disclose its past work for Ukraine. Reed Smith partner Eric Dubelier said Skadden was “permitted to purchase a declination,” while Concord has been forced to fight a raft of criminal charges.
Prosecutors working with the special counsel, Robert Mueller III, said the allegations against Concord “are not remotely similar” to the accusations that the Justice Department’s national security division levied against Skadden. The firm, as part of the settlement, belatedly reported its advocacy under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the federal law governing U.S. lobbying for foreign governments.
Prosecutors accused the law firm of not reporting its work on a purportedly independent analysis of the prosecution of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Former Skadden partner Greg Craig, an Obama-era White House counsel, was a leading attorney on the advocacy. Craig retired amid the Justice Department’s investigation and has not been charged with any crime.
“The law firm is not alleged to have condoned the former partner’s actions, let alone also to have engaged in anything akin to the numerous acts of deception and concealment as alleged against Concord,” the special counsel’s office wrote. “Nor is the former partner, let alone the law firm, alleged to have participated in any systemic effort to engage in U.S. election interference as the indictment describes.”
Prosecutors said Skadden “cooperated extensively with the investigation into the matter, and that the law firm has undertaken affirmative steps to enhance its internal procedures and processes.”
The special counsel’s new court filing referred to Skadden only as “the law firm” and to Craig as “a former partner.” Skadden said in a statement last month: “We have learned much from this incident and we look forward to putting these events behind us.”
William Taylor III of Zuckerman Spaeder, a lawyer for Craig, has maintained he was not required to register his work under the foreign-agents registration law.
In a court filing last month, Dubelier pointed to the Skadden settlement in an attempt to put Concord’s alleged conduct in a more favorable light. Dubelier said it appeared “at a minimum” Skadden conspired to defraud the government and made material false statements to the Justice Department.
“And the difference is that Skadden agreed to pay over $4.6 million to the United States so as not to be prosecuted (which is no penalty at all because it simply deprives the firm of its allegedly unlawfully earned revenue), and Concord stands accused of a crime having not been offered the purchase declination option,” Dubelier wrote.
“The disparate treatment by the government of these two matters,” he added, raises the question of why the Russian firm was indicted while Skadden was able to resolve the allegations by paying more than $4.6 million, representing the income it received from Ukraine. Dubelier described Skadden as a sophisticated law firm with offices around the globe, “including in Moscow.”
The defense lawyer argued Skadden’s admitted conduct is “far more direct, obvious, and egregious than the allegations against Concord—yet Skadden was not prosecuted.”
U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich has not ruled yet on whether to allow Concord’s lawyers to probe the Skadden settlement.