U.S. Government Documents Detailing American Law Firm’s Work For Moscow Firm Puzzles Experts
April 2, 2020 11:18 am
U.S. citizens acting as foreign agents for a Moscow law firm attended U.S. congressional hearings, researched American politics, and monitored U.S. news during 2019, registering under FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act) in February 2020, detailing work described by experts as “puzzling”, according to recent FARA filings.
BurgherGray LLP, a law firm with offices in Washington, D.C., and New York City, registered as foreign agents on February 13th, 2020, along with partners Gaurav Parikh and Edward Eynon, representing Ivanyan & Partners, a Moscow law firm, for services including, “attending congressional briefings”, and “monitoring news events”. Further confounding were documents showing a different law firm, Wilson, Keadjian, and Browndorf, appears to have actually done the work for Ivanyan & Partners, which BurgherGray partner Edward Eynon told Forensic News in a statement, “dissolved in 2019, and BurgherGray LLP acquired the Washington, D.C. office”, otherwise referring all questions to the Department of Justice.
Ivanyan & Partners is a Russian law firm founded by Khristofor Ivanyan, who was previously awarded “tokens of gratitude” by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of Russia Dmitry Medvedev, and Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, for “protecting the interests of the state”.
Representing Gennady Timchenko, a Russian oligarch and Putin ally, in 2013 they hired a different U.S. law firm to lobby on his behalf inside the U.S.
Ivanyan told Russian press in 2017, “since from the very beginning we considered the state as an important client and always tried to work for it…Not many firms consistently consider the state as a client…It seems to me that when you start to consider the Russian Federation as a system client, it becomes much easier.”
FARA law requires, “agents of foreign principals, who are engaged in political activities, or other activities specified under the statute, to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal”. FARA registration is required, “within ten days of agreeing to become an agent, and before performing any activities for the foreign principal” according to the U.S. Department Of Justice.
“Foreign principles”, are further defined as, “foreign political parties, a person, or organization outside the United States, except U.S. citizens, and any entity organized under the laws of a foreign country, or having its principal place of business in a foreign country.”, according to DOJ.
Forensic News spoke with FARA experts, along with a professor of political science and Director of UCLA’s Russia Political Insight Project, about BurgherGray’s registration:
Ben Freeman, the Director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center For International Policy and FARA expert said, “That’s so interesting, because none of that, reading their exact words, actually would require FARA registration. Where it could cross over, say, if they’re at a congressional briefing, telling a Congressman to do something to benefit their foreign client, that would trigger FARA, but it based on what they put here, this is just information collection”.
Craig Holman, an expert in FARA and lobbying at Public Citizen, a Washington, D.C. progressive advocacy group, said, “This doesn’t sound normal. I haven’t heard of anything like this before. To hire a U.S. law firm to attend congressional briefings, and do open source information gathering, no, I’ve never heard of this before.” adding, “This is puzzling”.
Daniel Treisman, a professor of political science at UCLA and Director of the Russia Political Insight Project, advised, “I think major Russian corporations and businessmen hire Washington lobbyists to keep track of any goings on that relate to their companies and interests”, though he noted, “It sounds as though this is explicitly for information gathering, presumably open source, and, “half a million dollars sounds like an awful lot of money”.
Ivanyan & Partners is actively representing the Russian government in a variety of international matters:
Russian intelligence agencies continue their long running campaign to sow chaos and divide Americans, which surfaced publicly when they interfered in the 2016 American presidential election. That campaign actually began around 2014 , according to the Mueller Report, when the Russian government began researching American politics and social issues, eventually sending Russian operatives to America to gather political intelligence.
Since Mueller’s high profile indictments of Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, FARA attorneys are advising their clients DOJ is actively seeking other Americans attempting to evade FARA registration. One major development is increased scrutiny on American lobbyists representing private foreign corporations accustomed to registering under the LDA (Lobbying Disclosure Act), a less serious disclosure, who are now being advised to register under FARA if they meet any of the criteria.
FARA experts noted DOJ recently issued an influential advisory opinion appearing to narrow the criteria for registration from, “the principle beneficiary”, to “a principle beneficiary”. In other words, Americans representing a foreign client must register under FARA anytime a principle beneficiary of their work is a foreign government, regardless of whether that foreign government is the principle beneficiary.
Though BurgherGray and Ivanyan & Partners fulfilled their contract on December 31st, 2019, a closer look at Senate LDA reports revealed prior history: Edward Eynon, working for a different law firm, Dickinson Wright, lobbied for them in 2018 – detailing services of, “legislative and administrative monitoring and outreach related to US-Russia relations”.
Why Mr. Eynon registered under FARA now, and who Ivanyan & Partners represents, remains a question.
The Department Of Justice, Ivanyan & Partners, and Gaurav Parikh did not respond to requests for comment.