Repairing the Foreign Agents Registration Act

May 3, 2022Business Crimes Bulletin

Until recently, the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA or the Act) was a curious historical and legal artifact with little contemporary relevance. Passed in 1938 in order to prevent a “fifth column” of Nazi supporters from secretly advocating on behalf of Hitler’s Germany, Congress enacted FARA in order to require “agents of foreign principals who might engage in subversive acts or spreading foreign propaganda” to register with the Department of Justice. Viereck v. United States, 318 U.S. 236, 241 (1943). For decades, the statute laid dormant, with only seven criminal FARA cases initiated between 1966 and 2015. In recent years, however, mostly due to the well-publicized prosecution of Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, FARA has become more of a focus for federal prosecutors. As a result, white-collar attorneys have been consulted more often about whether particular conduct requires registration under the Act.

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