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Richard Olson, a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates (“UAE”) during the Obama administration, has been criminally charged for failing to disclose his role in...

On March 30, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced the unsealing of an indictment against Sun Hoi Ying, a Chinese national, alleging that from 2017 through 2022, Sun acted in the United States as an agent of the Chinese government without notifying the U.S. Attorney General as required by law.

According to the DOJ...

On April 5th, the House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing entitled “Enhancing the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938.” The Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”). The hearing—the first dedicated to FARA in 30 years—focused on potential changes... 

On March 8, the court of the Southern District of New York unsealed an indictment charging Elena Branson, a dual citizen of Russia and the United States, with FARA violations, as well as visa fraud and making false statements to the FBI.

According to the indictment, beginning in 2011, Branson worked on behalf of the Russian government to advance Russian interests in the United States. Branson is alleged to have corresponded with Putin and met with a high-ranking Russia minister before founding a Russian propaganda center in New York City, using the center to host events and engage in ...

On January 6, 2022, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) unsealed an indictment charging Pierre Girgis, a dual U.S.-Egyptian citizen, with acting and conspiring to act in the U.S. as an unregistered agent of the Egyptian government, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 951.

From approximately 2014 to 2019, Girgis is alleged to have tracked and obtained information about Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s political opponents in the U.S. The indictment also alleges that Girgis used his connections within U.S. law enforcement to obtain non-public information, arranged ...

On December 8, 2021, the National Security Division of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced it was seeking public comment on making “modernizing” changes to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”), in advance of an anticipated Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

The DOJ will keep the notice period open for 60 days. It seeks comment on the following questions:

  • Question 1: Should the Department incorporate into its regulations some or all of its guidance addressing the scope of agency, which is currently published as part of the FARA Unit’s FAQs on its website ...

The American Bar Association created a task force on the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) made up of attorneys who deal with FARA related matters and inquiries. Yesterday, that task force released the report "FARA: Issues and Recommendations for Reform" which outlines in 53 pages the reforms they say are needed to fix the law.

Matthew Sanderson, editor of FARA.us and co-leader of the Political Law Group at Caplin & Drysdale, services as the co-chair of the Task Force on Foreign Agents Registration Act. Below is the executive summary from the report.

SECTION II: EXECUTIVE ...

The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced on July 20 that several defendants—including Thomas Barrack, a former adviser to the 2016 Trump presidential campaign—were charged with engaging in a conspiracy to illegally advance and promote the interests of the United Arab Emirates in the U.S. while failing to notify the Attorney General that their actions were taken at the direction of senior UAE officials, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 951.

Barrack reportedly was an informal adviser and fundraiser to former president Trump’s 2016 campaign then chaired his presidential ...

Michael Flynn associate Bijan Rafiekian, whose conviction under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) was overturned in September 2019, had his conviction reinstated by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on March 18, 2021.

Rafiekian, who ran a consulting a consulting firm with Michael Flynn hired by the Turkish government to advocate for the extradition of Turkish dissident cleric Fethullah Gulden, was convicted of acting as an unregistered foreign agent in the U.S. and conspiracy to violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The district court judge found ...

Former federal prosecutor Jennifer Gellie has been named the new head of the Foreign Agents Registration (FARA) Unit within the National Security Division of the Department of Justice. Ms. Gellie replaces Brandon Van Grack, who took over the role in 2019 and oversaw increased enforcement of FARA during his tenure.

Ms. Gellie, who has been with the National Security Division since 2016, has experience prosecuting foreign espionage cases. In 2018, she assisted in the prosecution of Kevin Patrick Mallory, a former CIA officer who was found guilty of conspiring to provide secret ...

On December 4, 2020, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division (“NSD”) of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) Adam Hickey delivered remarks to the American Conference Institute’s 2nd National Forum on the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”). Hickey addressed how DOJ’s enforcement of FARA has evolved and responded to criticisms of the law. Caplin & Drysdale Member Matt Sanderson is a co-chair of the Forum.

Hickey discussed how the NSD has changed its approach to enforcing FARA since 2015, when the DOJ’s Inspector General audited ...

Elliot Brody, a former Republican fundraiser, pleaded guilty on October 20 to violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”).

According to the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), Broidy conspired with others to push the U.S. government to “drop one of the largest fraud and money laundering prosecutions ever brought and to deport a critic of the Chinese Communist Party, all the while concealing the foreign interests whose bidding he was doing.” Broidy, a former deputy finance chairman for the Republican National Committee, admitted that he accepted $9 million

Just as the United States uses the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) to try to shed light on foreign influence in American politics, Australia and Israel have laws that attempt to ensure similar transparency in their own governments.

Like FARA, Australia’s Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme (“FITS”) Act defines the “registrable activities” that, if undertaken, require a person to register under the Act. These activities include lobbying, which the Act defines as representing the interests of any person in any government or political process or ...

The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced on August 31, 2020, that a businesswoman who attempted to influence U.S. officials to drop civil forfeiture proceedings and a criminal investigation into the embezzlement of billions of dollars from a company wholly owned by the Government of Malaysia pleaded guilty to a violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”).

According to DOJ, Nickie Mali Lum Davis of Honolulu, Hawaii, along with her coconspirators, was paid at least $3 million by Foreign National A to lobby the President of the United States, the Attorney ...

In line with its increased focus on foreign funding for U.S. universities, the Department of Education (DOE) launched a new online portal to facilitate reporting of foreign gifts and contracts valued at more than $250,000. Such reporting is required by Section 117 of the Higher Education Act.

According to DOE, billions of dollars in funds from foreign sources to U.S. higher education institutions have gone unreported. The new online portal requires universities to provide more information about foreign funding, including answering specific questions about each transaction ...

Several newly-released advisory opinions on the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) demonstrate the Department of Justice’s (“DOJ”) exceedingly broad view of the statute’s scope.  These opinions signal that organizations working with foreign entities may not be able to claim exemptions previously thought to apply to their work.  This latest guidance is in line with DOJ’s efforts to prioritize enforcement of FARA.

Opinion to U.S. Nonprofit Organization

In a March 13, 2020 opinion concerning a U.S. nonprofit organization that received a grant from a foreign ...

In an attempt to clarify the scope of the concept of “agency” in context of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”), the Department of Justice’s FARA Unit posted guidance earlier this month.

In May, the FARA Unit posted an explainer on the scope of “agency” under FARA, stating a commitment to increase transparency around enforcement of the statute and explaining that because FARA regulates expressive activities, “it is important that the standards governing its application be clear.” Notably, courts have used the Restatements of Agency as a guide in ...

Following its collection of public comment on the reporting requirements for foreign gifts and contracts with American universities, the Department of Education (DOE) has released additional information on the requirements.

Section 117 of the Higher Education Act requires that institutions report to the federal government any gift or contract with a foreign source valued at $250,000 or more “considered alone or in combination with all other gifts from or contracts with that foreign source within a calendar year.” In February, DOE requested a budgetary review of its new ...

The Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) has been in place since 1938.  During its eight decades of existence, the statute has been administered and enforced by different governmental bodies under varying arrangements.  Below is a description of FARA’s administration and enforcement from a historical perspective.

Initial FARA Enforcement at the Department of State (1938-1942)

As originally enacted in 1938, FARA tasked the Secretary of State with managing the foreign agent registration program.[1]  At the time, Secretary of State Cordell Hull opposed this statutory ...

In line with recent attempts to limit foreign influence in the United States, the U.S. State Department has designated five major Chinese state-run media companies as “foreign missions.”

The Foreign Missions Act defines a foreign mission as an entity that is “substantially owned or effectively controlled” by a foreign government.[1] Designating a company as a “foreign mission” requires it to adhere to requirements similar to those imposed on embassies and consulates in the U.S. The Act requires each company to register the locations of any properties they own or rent ...

The Department of Education (DOE) has provided clarity on the reporting requirements for foreign gifts to and contracts with American universities after stepping up its scrutiny of such funding. DOE’s increased concern with foreign funding for universities has led to the arrest of a Harvard professor, who is charged with concealing payments he received from the Chinese government for research.

Section 117 of the Higher Education Act requires that institutions report to the federal government any gift or contract with a foreign source valued at $250,000 or more “considered ...

On October 22, the Department of Justice filed criminal charges against Imaad Shah Zuberi, a Southern California venture capitalist, alleging violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) and other laws. Zuberi, who ran a venture capital firm called Avenue Ventures, has agreed to plead guilty to the charges.

The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) alleged that Zuberi used a portion of the funds he received through Avenue Ventures to attempt to persuade high-level U.S. public officials to take actions favorable to his clients. Specifically, DOJ alleged that ...

The Department of Education (DOE) appears to be stepping up scrutiny of American universities’ disclosures of foreign gifts and contracts. Several universities have received letters from the Department requesting information related to foreign gifts and contracts.

Section 117 of the Higher Education Act requires that institutions report to the federal government any gift or contract with a foreign source valued at $250,000 or more “considered alone or in combination with all other gifts from or contracts with that foreign source within a calendar year.” On September 26 ...

UPDATE: On March 18, 2021, Rafiekian’s FARA conviction was reinstated by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court opined that the circumstantial evidence and reasonable inferences were sufficient for the jury to rely on to convict Rafiekian.

. . .

On September 24th, Judge Trenga of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia set aside the conviction of former Michael Flynn associate Bijan Rafiekian. In July, a federal jury had convicted Rafiekian, who ran a consulting firm with Michael Flynn hired to advocate for the extradition of Turkish dissident cleric ...

A Department of Justice official confirmed yesterday that enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) is a “top priority” for the Department.  The remark was made by Brandon Van Grack, the Chief of the Department’s FARA Registration Unit, during a speech at the recent National Forum on FARA, a conference co-chaired by Caplin & Drysdale’s Matthew Sanderson.

Mr, Van Grack noted that “almost every single FARA statistic has risen exponentially since 2016,” including the number of FARA registrations filed and the number of FARA Advisory Opinions

Two federal cases charging violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) by Russian companies and individuals alleged to have acted as unregistered foreign agents to interfere in the 2016 and 2018 elections are still pending. The cases are part of a larger effort by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to more aggressively enforce FARA.

Internet Research Agency

In February 2018, a grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an eight-count indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies, among them the Internet Research Agency, alleging that ...

On July 23, 2019, a federal jury convicted Bijan Rafiekian (also known as Bijan Kian), a former business partner of Michael Flynn, of conspiring to file a materially false statement under FARA and of violating a statute that is similar to FARA at 18 U.S.C. § 951. The conviction represents a key victory for the Department of Justice (DOJ) as it seeks to more aggressively enforce FARA. As Assistant Attorney General John Demers stated following the verdict, “Through misrepresentations in his FARA filing, Mr. Rafiekian attempted to deceive the public and influence key leaders on behalf ...

As part of a continuing push to address foreign influence in the United States, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) enacted on August 13, 2018, includes new disclosure requirements for foreign-affiliated media companies operating in the United States. A public notice issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on September 4, 2018, explained that the NDAA amends the Communications Act to add language requiring these outlets to submit to the FCC a report containing its name and relationship to its foreign principal.

The new law requires that U.S.-based ...

Prakazrel “Pras” Michel, a member of the 1990s musical group The Fugees, was indicted earlier this month for violating federal campaign finance and tax laws.  The charges stemmed from Pras allegedly making $865,000 worth of illegal “straw donations” through a network of 20 people to the 2012 Obama presidential campaign on behalf of disgraced Malaysian financier Jho Low.  Pras also allegedly gave more than $1 million of Mr. Low’s money to an independent expenditure committee in his name and in the name of his company.  The effort was, according to the indictment, intended to ...

On May 6, 2019, the U.S. District Court of Southern Florida ruled in favor of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) in a proceeding that involved a Florida broadcasting company named RM Broadcasting, which contended it should not be required to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) as a result of its involvement in the U.S. distribution of the Russian radio channel Sputnik. The Sputnik radio channel is owned and produced by the Russian state-owned media corporation Rossiya Segodnya.

This case is the first civil enforcement case that DOJ has pursued since ...

A Florida-based broadcasting company filed suit last year against the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), claiming it should not be required to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”). The company, RM Broadcasting, broadcasts the radio channel Sputnik, whose parent company, Rossiya Segodnya, is owned and operated by the Russian government. Sputnik registered as a foreign agent under FARA in 2017. RM Broadcasting has a deal with a D.C.-area radio station to broadcast Sputnik twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

In June 2018, DOJ advised RM ...

The Justice Department (DOJ) has stepped up enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) in recent years and has put much of its more recent focus on pressing Chinese and Russian state-run media companies to register as foreign agents under the Act.

FARA requires an “agent of a foreign principal” to register under the Act. While FARA excludes from the definition of “agent of a foreign principal” any news or press service, this exemption applies only if the company is at least 80% owned by U.S. citizens and is not owned, directed, supervised, controlled, or ...

DOJ National Security Division Announces Significant Appointment and Shift on FARA Enforcement

U.S. Department of Justice official John C. Demers, who heads the Department’s National Security Division, announced yesterday that Brandon Van Grack will now lead the team that enforces the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”).  Mr. Demers described the appointment as signaling a shift “from treating FARA as an administrative obligation and regulatory obligation to one that is increasingly an enforcement priority.”

This announcement is the prosecutorial ...

Michael Cohen’s testimony on February 27, 2018 before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform featured several heated exchanges, including one particular line of questioning about the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) from Mark Meadows (R-NC). Congressman Meadows suggested during the hearing that Mr. Cohen’s work for several foreign companies obligated him to register under FARA, which he then followed-up with a criminal referral to the Department of Justice that reportedly asserted Mr. Cohen should have registered his representations under FARA ...

Amid high-profile cases involving the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”), some Members of Congress have expressed increased interest in improving transparency and enforcement of FARA. Their efforts have thus far stalled, but the landscape could be shifting toward reform.  Here are notable pieces of legislation and other congressional actions to watch:

  • Disclosing Foreign Influence Act: This legislation, introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), repeals an exemption in FARA that allows lobbyists for foreign corporations and nonprofits to register under the ...

The Department of Justice recently announced a landmark settlement agreement with the prominent law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.  Skadden acknowledges in the agreement that it should have registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) for its work on behalf of the Government of Ukraine.  The agreement also, among other things, requires Skadden to file a late FARA registration, disgorge $4.6 million to the U.S. Treasury, and implement “formal, robust procedures” to ensure FARA compliance.

This Skadden settlement is the first of its kind in ...

The Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) is arguably more prominent now than at any point in its 80-year history.  What is FARA?  What are the key concepts and exemptions contained in the statute?  What are FARA’s enforcement standards?

Find out in our brief plain-language guide on FARA, which answers these and other questions in a concise resource for media and members of the public getting acquainted with FARA for the first time.  READ MORE

www.FARA.us
Offers Informational Resources to Researchers, Journalists, and Potential Foreign Agents

WASHINGTON, D.C. - January 22, 2019: Caplin & Drysdale's Political Law Group today announced the launch of a new website – www.FARA.us – to serve as an informational resource to the regulated community and to journalists seeking a better understanding of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has increased its scrutiny of FARA compliance, as evidenced by its $4.6 million FARA-related settlement with prominent law ...

The Department of Justice’s FARA Registration Unit regularly issues what are called “Letters of Inquiry” when it believes an individual, company, non-profit, consultancy, or other party may need to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”).  Below are frequently asked questions about FARA Letters of Inquiry.

What gives rise to a Letter of Inquiry?

A Letter of Inquiry can be the result of a media article, a complaint or “tip” to the FARA Unit, a referral to the FARA Unit from another governmental body, or a review by the FARA Unit of public records and ...

Caplin &
Drysdale welcomes you to FARA.us, which is a new informational resource for the
regulated community about the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”).  This site is the first online resource to
provide detailed summaries of advisory opinions issued by the Department of
Justice’s FARA Unit, descriptions of major FARA enforcement cases, and a
comprehensive database of FARA’s legislative history materials all in a single
location.

FARA.us will also be
updated regularly to include FARA news and other information about the
law.  We hope that you will find it
useful.

An Informational Resource in a New Era of Foreign Agents Registration Act Enforcement.

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