High profile Wall Street law firm swept up in Mueller probe — and the lawyers there are nervous

The high profile law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom  — where large corporations go to handle acquisitions and mergers — has found itself embroiled in  special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian influence in President Donald Trump’s White House,  and it has some attorneys at the firm worried about the fall-out.

According to the New York Times, Skadden, Arps was once home to attorney Alex van der Zwaan who pleaded guilty to lying to investigators looking into Russian election interference and the Justice Department has asked for documents related to his work there as well as work the firm did for the Ukraine that is at the heart of the indictments against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

The report states two Skadden attorneys revealed that Mueller’s team has requested and received documents related to its Ukraine work, noting that $4 million in secret payments that Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates are accused of funneling to Skadden and other firms .

Skadden’s less publicized work involving foreign clients is now under scrutiny which has attorneys at the firm on edge.

“The mentality is that Skadden wouldn’t be afraid of doing something like this, if there was a chance to utilize their skills and status to take advantage of what sounds like a very lucrative business, and they saw no legal or ethical proscription against their taking on the matter,” explained Yale Law School’s Lincoln Caplan, author of ‘Skadden: Power, Money, and the Rise of a Legal Empire.’

According to the report, the Skadden involvement may have a ripple effect into other firms that double as lobbyists, noting, “Among those reaping windfalls are large international law firms like the Washington-based Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, which represents the governments of Japan, the Maldives, Nicaragua and South Korea, among others.”

“This is creating concern in the Washington lobbying community about not only complying with FARA [Foreign Agents Registration Act], but also a new emphasis on enforcement that perhaps folks didn’t think was happening or would happen,” explained Thomas J. Spulak, a lawyer in the Washington office of King & Spalding.

Skadden in particular is of interest to investigators after a partner wrote a legal opinion in 2012 that the lobbying firms — such as Manaforts and Gates’ —  used in opting not to register under FARA.

The firm is likely to be drawn deeper into the investigation because if its relationship with van der Zwan.

“Why he was lying is a big question, and did anyone else at the law firm know he was lying?” explained Rebecca Roiphe, a professor at New York Law School. “If he was lying for his own purposes, I don’t think that knowledge would be imputed to other lawyers at the firm.”

You can read the whole report here.

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