Cravath represented Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, in a limited matter eight years ago. The work netted the firm a few hundred grand — a rounding error for Cravath. However, it involved meeting with U.S. government officials, which triggers foreign agent reporting requirements that Cravath never bothered to file until just now.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with representing a foreign entity. But since Hunter Biden once served on the board of Burisma and the company holds crucial importance to all the conspiracies that Joe Biden ran an influence-peddling regime, any headline involving the company is going to cause a lot of, well, this:
It does not raise any more questions.
But this headline from the spectacularly named “Patriot Mom Digest” provides a peek into the Burisma effect. It doesn’t even make sense within its own fever dream. If the fix was in for Burisma to walk, why did they have to pay one of the world’s best law firms? Seems like they coulda beaten a case like that for a quarter of the cost with a bargain basement firm.
Cravath’s filings said the firm was hired in January 2016 to represent Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky — a multimillionaire former Ukrainian minister of ecology and natural resources — “in connection with possible investigations by governmental authorities in the United States.” The work was expanded to include Burisma, the firm said.
The filings said Buretta’s work included meeting with three U.S. government officials in March 2016 and sending one letter to an official later that year.
Cravath reported receiving nearly $350,000 for its legal work between March 2016 and August 2017, one of the new filings showed.
Not only did Cravath perform a relatively small amount of work, unlike the typical foreign agent case, its work was pretty transparent. When folks are lobbying elected officials without any indication that they’ve been collecting fees from a foreign government — that’s the sort of opacity disclosure is designed to clear up. Buretta is a litigator who interacted with government officials in response to an investigation into a foreign client. No one was getting fooled here.
In fact, Cravath doesn’t seem to have imagined that the lobbying rules would extend to writing officials to lay out the lack of a case. But the government is trying to expand the scope of these disclosures — potentially further than ever intended — and Cravath came to the conclusion amidst all the smoke to go ahead and report litigation work as if it were lobbying for a foreign agent.
Technically the law carries some hefty penalties for failing to disclose, but applying them here wouldn’t seem to make much sense.
But even time itself doesn’t make sense when these people go down the Burisma rabbit hole, so who knows?
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.