Lawyers who think that the Justice Department’s recent surge in Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) enforcement might apply to their clients—but not to them—may be in for an unpleasant surprise. Recently released Justice Department advisory opinions and guidance and recent enforcement actions illustrate, with clarity, its view that a broad swath of activities that are commonly facets of contemporary legal strategies in fact require lawyers and law firms to register under FARA. They paint, in stark relief, the critical need for lawyers to be attuned to ways in which ordinary client engagements may have FARA implications.
While likely surprising to many of us, these developments align quite neatly with broader FARA enforcement trends. The Justice Department’s focus on clandestine foreign influence on the American public is presently at an all-time high. And its principal tool for monitoring such influence is FARA: a capacious World War II-era statute, enacted at a time when lawyers were lawyers, reporters were reporters, and Madison Avenue was the hegemonic vehicle for influencing Americans.
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