Delaware Chancellor Bouchard’s former law firm, fined $4.6 million by the United States Department of Justice!
You won’t be surprised to learn that Delaware’s Chancellor Andre Bouchard’s former employer, who Bouchard himself ordered to be paid $25 million from TransPerfect Global, is the infamous law firm of “Skadden Arps.” This firm, in my opinion, makes the law firm in John Grisham’s book “The Firm” look like a kindergarten summer camp. Skadden Arps is the subject of innumerable investigations, and I’m shaking my head imagining if it isn’t just a legal front for organized crime? Who else is an alumni (and Bouchard’s former intern) from Skadden Arps? Of course, Leo Strine, now Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court. Who else worked at Skadden Arps and got rich off of TransPerfect by the Court-Ordered rates of $1,475 per hour (in Delaware) for over 3 years? You guessed it, another Skadden Arps lawyer, custodian Robert Pincus. For those of you that think I’m too harsh on Bouchard’s former law firm, know this, they were just fined $4.6 MILLION by the US DOJ for aiding what could be considered serious federal crimes-illegally operating as an agent for a foreign government.
Compare Skadden Arps illegally operating as an agent for a foreign government to Chancellor Bouchard fining Philip Shawe $7.1 million for insignificant findings like “failing to safeguard an old cell phone” — all trumped up charges by Bouchard — not proven in front of a jury as Shawe demanded. The difference in the amount of the fines is in no way justifiable. It seems that some of the Chancellor’s evidence was a ridiculous example of subjective adjudication, which is not what justice is supposed to be about. Bouchard in fact, from what I understand, used a “smiley face” text message 🙂 as part of what I consider this absurd justification for dissolving a 4,000-person industry leader and putting his friends in charge of TransPerfect for 3 years of what should be recognized as an unprecedented, court-ordered fleecing.
Again folks, please take a moment, and digest, just how crazy this whole scenario is. In my view, Bouchard’s and Strine’s former employer, as I understand it, actively violated laws against the United States and then apparently lied to federal investigators about it, and then were slapped with a $4.6 million fine as a result. Shawe, an individual who from what I’ve heard and read is unquestionably one of American’s greatest entrepreneurs with a spotless record, got a $7.1 million fine by the Chancery Court! How convenient that $1.4 million of Shawe’s fine is ordered to go directly to Bouchard’s best friend, Kevin Shannon (and his law firm, Potter Anderson)… Shameful on its face, don’t you think? Yes, this is the very person Bouchard traveled to New Orleans with and made a public appearance with during the decision- making period of the case. Yes, this is the sole lawyer in the trial, who Bouchard has clearly created huge benefits for by his suspicious actions, and allowed him to get outrageous sums of money without providing to my knowledge, not one detailed invoice — or substantiation of the work that was supposed to be provided. No other lawyer got treated this way, with the exception of one: Bouchard’s other long-term and former co-worker, Skadden’s (appointed by Bouchard) — Custodian, Bob Pincus who collected outrageous and undocumented fees from TransPerfect !
I’m told Pincus and Skadden are still billing TransPerfect TODAY — And with the case NOW OVER — Bouchard is still ordering his friends to be paid. No wonder the records remain unlawfully sealed by Bouchard. These facts are obscene!!! I urge the Delaware Legislature to make the Delaware Court of Chancery accountable and to force it to cease and desist from these suspicious activities and appearances of impropriety!! By doing nothing and putting their heads in the sand, our elected lawmakers become indirect accomplices in this horrible injustice. Congress orders investigations for much less at a Federal level. YOU folks in the General Assembly are Delaware’s Congress; it is your job to start a needed inquiry!!!
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as Bouchard began learning his, in my opinion, shady dealing techniques young in his career, from his former employer Skadden Arps, who I, and apparently the DOJ, view as a den of thieves. Think about it — if they got caught for federal violations and had to pay $4.6 million in fines, which is a lot of money folks! It makes you wonder… what else have they done? What else could their Wilmington office have been involved in? Perhaps violation of federal laws (perhaps a form of treason?) and the TransPerfect case may just scratch the surface of Skadden’s possible nefarious affairs, for all we know?
According to the story pasted below, there are some pretty sordid details on Skadden’s troubles with the U.S. government — requiring them “to retroactively register as a foreign agent and review its policies for responding to inquiries from the government.” Just Google Skadden Arps and DOJ! The more you read, the more you’ll see why I believe that the stench coming from our Chief Chancellor’s office, seemingly and in my view, probably started early in his career.
Folks, you simply can’t make these facts up, which is why I will continue to report on it and continue to fight for the records and the bills to be unsealed. If nothing is wrong — why does this irregular “cover up” continue? I again ask for an investigation into Bouchard and his cronies and if these appearances of impropriety are found to be actual improprieties, then these people must be brought to justice and held accountable for harming TransPerfect employees, harming Delaware citizens, and creating the long-term devastation of Delaware’s business reputation, which is now nationally and internationally synonymous with the disconcerting term called “corruption.”
Please read the story below, I know it’s long, but this is important stuff, as these are the good ole boys that we’ve entrusted to run our judiciary in Delaware! As always, your comments are welcome.
Law360 (January 18, 2019, 11:57 PM EST) — Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP has agreed to pay a $4.6 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice for failing to register as a foreign agent. Here, we look at how the firm got to this point.
Law360, Washington (January 18, 2019, 10:06 PM EST) — Emails released by the U.S. Department of Justice show how Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP lawyers slowly abandoned caution toward a foreign lobbying law and began openly lying to federal investigators during their engagement with the Ukrainian government from 2012 to 2013.
Excerpts of the emails were released Thursday by the DOJ after it announced a $4.6 million settlement with Skadden for alleged violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a law requiring people to register any U.S. political lobbying on behalf of a foreign government.
The emails show how lawyers at the high-priced firm were initially cautious about doing anything that would require them to register as foreign agents under the law, and wanted to limit their work to preparing an independent report on the prosecution of Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister.
But over the course of their work, the Skadden lawyers, including the politically connected former White House counsel Greg Craig, slowly abandoned that caution and found themselves involved in the country’s public relations campaign to win over Western media amid a backlash over Tymoshenko’s treatment.
Here, Law360 chronicles the shift in the firm’s work as revealed by the newly disclosed emails, and how it ultimately led to the multimillion-dollar settlement.
Blurring Lines Between Legal Work, PR
Skadden was retained by the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice in the spring of 2012, receiving a $4 million advance provided by an unnamed businessperson with whom Craig had earlier met in Kiev. Shortly after the retainer, a Skadden lawyer identified as “Partner-2” in the DOJ appendix cautioned Craig that someone else should manage the country’s public relations effort because the firm was hired “as lawyers, not spin doctors.”
“Good advice,” Craig responded.
But it was advice that Craig and other Skadden lawyers would loosely follow, as they danced on the line between legal work and public relations in the ensuing months.
Between late April and early May 2012, Craig advised lobbyist Paul Manafort about which public relations firm the Ukrainian government should hire to execute the country’s messaging strategy once the report became public.
After one particularly strong recommendation for a firm that could help its outreach strategy in Europe, Ukraine accepted Craig’s advice.
Still, Skadden and the PR firm kept a watchful eye on their potential FARA obligations. An executive of the PR firm was careful to tell Craig that “i[f] at a future date our brief is expanded and requires U.S.-headquartered personnel and activities, we will then take appropriate steps.”
Skadden lawyers kept an eye on their potential FARA obligations throughout the spring of 2012 but nevertheless continued communicating with Manafort, his associate Rick Gates and members of the PR firm about their work. In July, for instance, the PR firm shared its “communication strategy” with Gates, who forwarded the document to an unnamed Skadden associate.
Media Strategy Heats Up
As the release date for the report approached, Craig and other Skadden lawyers were included in additional discussions about the PR firm’s media plans for the report, such as the list of media and government personnel to be contacted once it was made public.
In one strategy document shared with Craig, the PR firm proposed leaking the report to a specific U.S. journalist at a major media outlet on the night before the report’s release.
In late September 2012, the PR firm scheduled a meeting in New York City with Craig, Manafort, Gates and an unnamed Skadden associate to discuss the upcoming media campaign. Documents circulated by the firm ahead of the meeting indicated that they had chosen to leak to a different news outlet than the one originally planned, in light of Craig’s prior relationship with the newly selected journalist.
On Sept. 24, Craig told Manafort in an email that he didn’t think Skadden lawyers should be providing background to journalists after the release of the report, suggesting it would undermine the integrity of the report. Craig ultimately acceded to Manafort’s request to respond to media requests run through the firm’s communications professionals.
Craig Reaches Out to New York Times
On Oct. 2, 2012, Craig reached out to a reporter for The New York Times he knew and connected him with a lobbyist on the topic of the upcoming Ukrainian report. The reporter could be identified as the Times’ Washington correspondent, David Sanger, by details shared by the DOJ appendix.
Craig followed up with Sanger on Dec. 11, offering to provide exclusive access to the report before it was slated to be released publicly. After receiving a response, Craig sent Sanger an electronic copy and indicated he would “hand-deliver a hard copy of this report to your home tonight.” Craig shared the exchange with the unnamed Partner-2 at Skadden and updated the PR firm.
On Dec. 12, Sanger told Craig via email that he’d read the report and was “ready to talk,” indicating an unnamed Moscow-based colleague would take the lead on the story. The colleague could be identified as David Herszenhorn by details contained in the DOJ appendix. Herszenhorn sent a list of questions to Craig and suggested a conference call.
Following the call, Craig sent Sanger a quote for their story: “We leave to others the question of whether this prosecution was politically motivated. We say nothing about that. Our assignment was to look at the evidence in the record and determine whether the trial was fair.”
The New York Times published Sanger and Herszenhorn’s story — headlined “Failings Found In Trial of Ukrainian Ex-Premier” — that day, just hours before the report was made public on the Ukrainian government’s website. The article used a slightly shortened version of the quote Craig sent Sanger.
Skadden Attracts Attention from FARA Unit
Just a few days after the report was released, finding no evidence of political motivation to the Tymoshenko trial, the DOJ’s FARA Unit sent a letter to Skadden seeking information about its representation of Ukraine, including a copy of their agreement and the services it has provided the country.
The DOJ’s letter bounced around the firm until Craig finally sent his official response nearly two months later in February 2013. In it, the lawyer described the firm’s representation as involving “rule of law issues” and “advice” about Ukraine’s criminal justice system, according to the DOJ. The response did not mention discussions with public relations consultants, lobbyists or reporters.
Craig’s response was wanting, the DOJ apparently thought, and demanded more information in April 2013, specifically homing in on the firm’s contacts with media outlets, as well as how much it made for the work; the initial response made no mention of the $4 million advance.
‘False and Misleading’ Answers
Craig responded to the DOJ’s follow-up with a June 2013 letter that the DOJ now says contained “false and misleading statements.” Specifically, the letter dated Craig’s contacts with The New York Times to Dec. 12, 2012, omitting that he had actually shared an early copy of the report with Sanger the day before. Further, Craig described his contacts as “brief clarifying statements.”
Craig also told the DOJ at the time that Skadden had turned in the final version of the report to Ukraine in September 2012, when in fact it made limited changes in response to input from Manafort through November. Finally, the letter said Skadden didn’t have to share the identity of the anonymous business person who funded the legal work as it had no obligation to register.
“The FARA Unit relied to its detriment on false and misleading statements in this letter,” the DOJ now says. “As a result, the FARA Unit was deprived of the complete information that the FARA Unit expected to receive in response to its inquiry.”
The exchanges between the FARA Unit and Skadden continued through the fall of 2013 and culminated in an in-person meeting in Washington, D.C., to discuss the firm’s registration obligations. At the meeting, Craig once again conveyed “false and misleading” information, the DOJ now says.
After a follow-up letter — in which Craig said he only distributed copies of the report “in response to requests from the media” — the FARA Unit finally gave the firm the all-clear and said it had “no present obligation to register under FARA.”
Three years later — well after Skadden had concluded its work in the country and the Ukrainian revolution of 2014 had driven President Viktor Yanukovych to exile in Russia — the DOJ’s National Security Division, which houses the FARA Unit, began beefing up its enforcement of the lobbying law after an inspector general report found widespread noncompliance.
In October 2017, Manafort and Gates were among the first to be ensnared by that effort in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 presidential election. The pair had worked on then-Republican candidate Donald Trump’s campaign.
Indictments returned by a federal grand jury focused extensively on Manafort’s work for Ukraine’s pro-Russia Party of Regions, bringing the attention of federal investigators uncomfortably close to Skadden’s report for the Ministry of Justice.
At Skadden’s Doorstep
Skadden’s legal troubles spilled directly into public view with the February 2018 guilty plea of former Skadden associate Alex van der Zwaan, a member of the report team who admitted to lying to Mueller’s investigators about his communications with Gates regarding the 2012 report. Skadden said in a statement that it terminated Van der Zwaan in 2017 and “has been cooperating with authorities in connection with this matter.”
Days later, the firm released a statement saying, “Greg Craig did not engage in any activity that required him or the firm to register.”
Van der Zwaan was sentenced to 30 days in prison in April 2018 and ordered to pay a $20,000 fine, the first prison sentence to arise from the Mueller investigation. Later that month, the firm confirmed that Craig had left the firm amid increasing scrutiny over the report, although a Skadden spokesperson did not respond to questions about the circumstances or timing of Craig’s departure.
Manafort pled guilty to two counts of conspiracy and obstruction of justice in a September deal requiring him to cooperate with the Mueller investigation. Craig’s lawyers, meanwhile, defended the ex-Skadden partner in the court of public opinion, insisting the “few” media contacts about the 2012 report “were not part of an effort to promote the report on behalf of a foreign government,” and that “as a result, he was not required to register under” FARA.
The DOJ’s $4.6 million settlement with Skadden on Thursday requires the firm to retroactively register as a foreign agent and review its policies for responding to inquiries from the government.
A lawyer for Craig declined to comment Friday.