NYT: Skadden Paid $11M To Settle Claim Arising From Manafort’s Ukraine Work

KYIV, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 6, 2020 - Leader of the Batkivshchyna All-Ukrainian Union, MP Yulia Tymoshenko is pictured in the praesidium a sitting of the Verkhovna Rada, Kyiv, capital of Ukraine. The parliament holds th... KYIV, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 6, 2020 - Leader of the Batkivshchyna All-Ukrainian Union, MP Yulia Tymoshenko is pictured in the praesidium a sitting of the Verkhovna Rada, Kyiv, capital of Ukraine. The parliament holds the second reading of draft law 2178-10 'On the Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine on the Circulation of Agricultural Land'. - PHOTOGRAPH BY Ukrinform / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Volodymyr Tarasov / Ukrinform/Barcroft Media via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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May 11, 2020 1:50 p.m.

The New York Times has an answer to a mystery first launched by Ukrainian financial disclosures last week.

White shoe law firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom paid out at least $11 million to settle allegations stemming from an operation imprisoned former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort ran to whitewash the Ukrainian government’s 2011 imprisonment of a political opponent, the paper reports

Ukrainian public financial disclosures showed last week that former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and her lawyer Serhiy Vlasov declared around $5.5 million in “foreign income” from Reid Collins & Tsai, a law firm specializing in plaintiff-brought, professional liability suits. 

The Times reported that Tymoshenko had contemplated bringing a case over the firm’s “role in aiding her political prosecution,” and that the settlement would “avert a suit over its role in justifying her imprisonment by a political rival.” 

A Skadden spokeswoman did not return repeated requests for comment. 

On advice from Manafort, the government of then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych hired the firm to write a report that would publicly exonerate it of any wrongdoing in the prosecution and imprisonment of Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko, a politician imprisoned by the Ukrainian government at the time who enticed President Trump last year with bogus information about Joe Biden.

At the time, Kyiv faced an international outcry over the prosecutions. As a political adviser to Yanukovych, Manafort arranged for Skadden’s then-star partner and former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig to bring a team of lawyers to Ukraine to write the report. Manafort also arranged for Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Pinchuk to pay Skadden $4 million for the report. 

In finding that the government’s imprisonment of a political opponent was not politically motivated, the report gave Yanukovych political cover at home and abroad. U.S. officials described Skadden’s report as a whitewash. 

For Manafort, Skadden fit into a larger effort to made Yanukovych palatable to the West. Prosecutors in the Mueller investigation later released evidence showing that he ran a secret, international lobbying campaign to launder the regime into the West’s good graces.

But everything that has transpired since the $4 million report’s release has hugely embarrassed Skadden, known mostly for its work on mergers and with Wall Street bigwigs. Its former client – Yanukovych – was overthrown after his government shot 100 protestors to death on the streets of Kyiv, while the firm’s work in Ukraine took the spotlight at various points in the Mueller investigation. 

The firm paid the Ukrainian government more than $500,000 in 2017, and paid $4.6 million to the DOJ last year as part of a separate settlement in which it agreed to retroactively register as a foreign agent of the Ukrainian government. 

Craig was later prosecuted – and acquitted – of lying to the Justice Department about his role in disseminating the report. 

Tymoshenko said in a Facebook post last week that she had received “monetary compensation for damages, incurred by the political repression from 2011-2014” from a U.S. entity as part of a “pretrial resolution,” a description she also used in the asset declaration that revealed the settlement. 

“There will be no other details about this matter due to legislative regulations in the U.S. regarding legal restrictions,” Tymoshenko added.

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