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June 01, 2022

DOJ Files Civil Enforcement Action Under FARA

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Key Takeaways

  • Recent actions by the Department of Justice appear to indicate that the agency will continue to aggressively enforce the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
  • The penalty for a willful violation of FARA is imprisonment for not more than five years, a fine of up to $250,000, or both.
  • Learn more about the DOJ's recent actions and penalties for those who do not comply.

As part of an increase in enforcement actions under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), the Department of Justice recently filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for D.C. seeking to compel Stephen Wynn, a well-known casino mogul, to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act as an agent of the People's Republic of China (PRC).

FARA requires certain agents of foreign principals who are engaged in political activities or other activities specified under the statute to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities. Disclosure of the required information facilitates evaluation by the government and the American people of the activities of such persons in light of their function as foreign agents. The FARA Unit of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section (CES) in the National Security Division (NSD) is responsible for the administration and enforcement of FARA.

About the FARA Complaint

According to the May 17, 2022 complaint, in 2017 Wynn contacted then-President Donald Trump and members of his Administration seeking, on behalf of the PRC, to remove a PRC national from the United States. The PRC national had previously sought political asylum in the United States after facing charges of corruption. While not named in the suit, the Chinese businessman referenced appears to match the description of Guo Wengui, a billionaire real estate magnate and outspoken critic of the Chinese government.

Penalties Under FARA

This enforcement action continues the DOJ's recent, aggressive enforcement of FARA. The penalty for a willful violation of FARA is imprisonment for not more than five years, a fine of up to $250,000, or both. Certain violations are considered misdemeanors, with penalties of imprisonment of not more than six months, a fine of not more than $5,000, or both. There are also civil enforcement provisions, such as at issue here, that empower the Attorney General to seek an injunction requiring registration under FARA or correcting a deficient registration statement.

As stated by Matthew G. Olsen, an assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's national security division, "where a foreign government uses an American as its agent to influence policy decision in the United States, FARA gives the American people a right to know." There is wide spread agreement that there is currently an increased enforcement environment regarding FARA. 

Buchanan's coordinated team of national security attorneys can help advise clients on the latest FARA enforcement trends and provide clients with guidance related to compliance.

ALM expressly disclaims any express or implied warranty regarding the OnPractice Content, including any implied warranty that the OnPractice Content is accurate, has been corrected or is otherwise free from errors.

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