Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner Ted Olson, a former U.S. solicitor general who served under the George W. Bush administration, has registered as a foreign agent advocating for Saudi Arabia to defeat proposed legislation that would allow U.S. antitrust enforcers to target the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its members.
Saudi Arabia, through its U.S. embassy, agreed last month to pay Gibson Dunn a flat fee of $250,000 to prepare a “concise white paper, suitable for public dissemination, opposing” the proposed legislation titled “No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act,” which was introduced this year in the U.S. House of Representatives. The law would expose OPEC to U.S. prosecution for any antitrust violations.
Gibson Dunn will also prepare a more in-depth legal analysis of the bill, along with an op-ed opposing the legislation, according to a letter Olson sent outlining the terms of Gibson Dunn’s representation of Saudi Arabia. Washington-based Gibson Dunn litigation partner Amir Tayrani and associate Benjamin Hayes also registered to represent Saudi Arabia.
“In the event that you wish to expand the scope of the engagement to include meetings between myself and members of Congress regarding NOPEC, there will be an additional flat fee of $100,000 per month to cover my time preparing for, and attending, such meetings,” Olson wrote. Closing the letter, he added: “On behalf of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, I look forward to a mutually rewarding relationship.”
Gibson Dunn did not immediately comment on the new lobbying engagement. Saudi Arabia has engaged with, among other firms, Hogan Lovells, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and King & Spalding, according to Justice Department foreign-agent registrations.
The firm revealed the new lobbying in a disclosure to the Justice Department required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a 1938 law originally passed to reveal Nazi propaganda campaigns.
Eighty years later, the law has received renewed attention amid the special counsel’s prosecution of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on charges that include failing to register as a foreign agent in connection with his past lobbying work for the Russia-backed government of Ukraine. Manafort’s trial on that allegation, along with others brought by special counsel Robert Mueller III, is set to begin next week in Washington’s federal trial court.
Gibson Dunn’s registration, dated Sept. 7, marked its first filing under FARA in more than 20 years. It came just weeks away from the 23rd anniversary of the end of the firm’s previous representation of Saudi Arabia in the mid-1990s. In the January 1996 filing, Gibson Dunn notified the Justice Department that its representation of Saudi Arabia had ended on Sept. 25, 1995.
Olson’s registration wasn’t his first as a lobbyist. He has appeared on a handful of U.S. Senate lobbying registrations over the years. In 2011, he was on the Gibson Dunn team that registered to lobby for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on issues including derivatives legislation. Olson was also on the Gibson Dunn team that registered in 2010, also for the U.S. Chamber, to lobby on Dodd-Frank and campaign finance matters.