Federal Court Grants Casino Mogul Steve Wynn Dismissal of DOJ FARA Suit

Steve Wynn, a casino magnate and associate of former President Trump, won dismissal of the government’s civil suit against him seeking to compel him to retroactively register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”).

The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) had filed suit in May seeking to compel Wynn to register as an agent of China under FARA. The suit was the first affirmative civil action initiated by the DOJ since 1991. It alleged that Wynn worked with Chinese officials from June to August 2017, engaging in political activities in the U.S. on China’s behalf. The complaint alleged that Wynn’s acted out of a desire to benefit his business interests in Macau, an administrative region in China. According to the DOJ, Wynn was previously advised on three occasions to register as an agent under FARA but declined to do so.

Without considering whether Wynn was an “agent” of China, the D.C. District Court dismissed the case on October 12. The Court reasoned, based on precedent interpreting the statutory language, that Wynn’s obligation to file a registration has passed and the DOJ could not compel him to register as Wynn’s alleged agency relationship with China had since ended. The Court noted that DOJ could still attempt to impose criminal sanctions as long as Wynn remained within the statute of limitations.

The ruling that the government has no power to require retroactive registration after the purported foreign agent relationship has ended could deal a blow to the Department’s efforts to enforce FARA through civil enforcement action.

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