A federal judge on Wednesday rebuffed a Russian company’s claim that it is being selectively prosecuted based on its nationality, rejecting arguments that the U.S. Justice Department’s civil settlement with the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom was evidence of the disparate treatment from prosecutors.
U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, a Trump appointee serving on the trial court since 2017, drew a stark distinction between the criminal accusations the special counsel’s office levied against the Russian firm, Concord Management and Consulting, and the civil claims that Skadden had failed in 2012 to properly disclose its work for Ukraine under U.S. lobbying rules.
Concord, represented by a team from Reed Smith, argued the Justice Department had allowed Skadden to “buy its way out of a prosecution” in reaching a settlement that required the firm to pay $4.6 million, the amount it received from the Russia-aligned government of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
Friedrich concluded there was little comparison between the two cases. Concord stands accused of participating in a scheme to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Skadden, by contrast, was accused of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a 1938 law that requires law firms and lobbyists to report certain advocacy for foreign governments.
“The misconduct ascribed to Skadden in the declination letter is not similar in nature or scope to the conspiracy charged here,” Friedrich wrote in her ruling. “Although Skadden is alleged to have made false and misleading statements to the FARA Unit between 2012 and 2014, the statements were allegedly made by a single former partner of the firm, and there is no allegation that the firm condoned, much less contributed to, the former partner’s false and misleading statements.”
Friedrich added: “Significantly, unlike here, there is no claim that the firm engaged in a wide-ranging conspiracy with others to interfere with U.S. political processes and defraud the Federal Election Commission, the Department of State, and the Department of Justice.”
Former Skadden partner Gregory Craig, represented by Zuckerman Spaeder partner William Taylor III, has denied he was required to register his work under the foreign-agent law. Craig reportedly faces a criminal investigation but has not been charged.
Concord’s lead defense lawyer, Reed Smith partner Eric Dubelier, has repeatedly pointed to the Skadden settlement in recent weeks as evidence that the Russian company is facing unfair treatment from the U.S. government.
Dubelier, whose colorful rhetoric in previous court filings drew a rebuke from Friedrich, said the Justice Department’s settlement with Skadden showed that the law firm had “at a minimum” made false statements to the federal government and conspired to defraud the government.
“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.
Prosecutors working under the special counsel, Robert Mueller III, said the two cases “are not remotely similar.”
The special counsel’s office also praised Skadden for its cooperation. The law firm, prosecutors wrote, “cooperated extensively with the investigation into the matter, and that the law firm has undertaken affirmative steps to enhance its internal procedures and processes.”
Friedrich’s order is posted below: