A U.S. law firm has agreed to pay $4.6 million to settle claims by the Department of Justice that it violated lobbying laws by failing to register work it did for Ukraine’s government.
The Department of Justice said in a statement on January 17 that Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP made "false and misleading statements" after its foreign agents registration unit (FARA) contacted the firm in 2013 in connection with the case.
The work was done in conjunction with Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman and overlaps with the Special Counsel investigation by Robert Mueller that is looking at Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Ukraine’s government at the time was considered pro-Russia.
"Law firms should handle inquiries from the federal government the same way they would counsel their clients to: with appropriate due diligence to ensure the honesty of their response," Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in the statement.
"Skadden’s failure to do so, and reliance on only the representations of the lead partner on the matter, hid from the public that its report was part of a Ukrainian foreign influence campaign."
A Dutch attorney for the law firm who once worked closely with Manafort was sentenced last year to 30 days in prison and given a $20,000 fine for lying to Mueller's investigators about contacts with an official in Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Alex van der Zwaan, the son-in-law of Russian billionaire German Khan, was the first person to be sentenced in Mueller’s probe.
Van der Zwaan was a lawyer in London for Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in 2012 when he carried out work for the Ukraine government through former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates and Manafort.