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Hunter Biden-linked law firm registers as foreign agent

By Jake Beardslee · January 9, 2024

In brief…

  • The prominent law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore has registered as a foreign agent for Burisma years after doing work for the Ukrainian company.
  • The delayed registration came amid renewed Justice Department focus on foreign lobbying laws.
  • A Cravath partner contacted Obama officials in 2016 regarding investigations into Burisma.
The law firm Cravath registered as a foreign agent for Ukrainian energy company Burisma linked to Hunter Biden years after doing work for the firm that factored into controversies surrounding both the Trump and Biden presidencies.  Bella Bellini/Wikimedia

The prominent New York law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore has filed paperwork registering as a foreign agent for a Ukrainian energy company connected to Hunter Biden, according to a new report. The company, Burisma, appointed Hunter Biden to its board in 2014 and later became a focus of controversies surrounding both the Trump and Biden presidencies.

In an emailed statement, Cravath said its delayed foreign agent registration came after talks with the Justice Department over the scope of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, though a spokesperson declined to provide details, according to Politico. Experts say it’s rare for foreign agents to register years after their work concludes, but some have done so recently amid renewed Justice Department scrutiny of foreign lobbying.

According to the filing, Cravath partner John Buretta met with three Obama administration officials and sent a letter to a fourth in 2016, regarding U.S. and Ukrainian investigations into Burisma and its owner Mykola Zlochevsky over corruption allegations. The officials included State Department under secretary Catherine Novelli, assistant secretary Amos Hochstein, and DOJ official Bruce Swartz. He also contacted newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

The filing does not mention Hunter Biden, who was on Burisma’s board at the time. But his role has sparked controversies given that his father Joe Biden oversaw Ukraine policy as vice president. Allies of former President Trump claimed Joe Biden improperly pressured Ukraine to fire a prosecutor to shield Burisma, while U.S. officials said the firing aimed to spur anti-corruption efforts Ukraine was reluctant to pursue.

Cravath reported receiving around $350,000 from Burisma during the period covered by its foreign agent registration. It’s not the only firm filing late registrations related to Burisma, with Democratic lobbyists Blue Star Strategies also registering in 2022 after facing a Justice probe.