Windhoek-Namibia has found herself in U.S. news headlines over alleged failure by an American law and lobbying firm to declare to the U.S. Justice Department that it did work to lobby the USA to do trade with the Namibian government.
American law firm Miller & Chevalier acted for the Namibian government, specifically for the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development, in the course of 2015. However, the firm did not file the disclosure with the U.S. Justice Department until in late December 2017 – just before Christmas – which in principle is a violation the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
Miller & Chevalier did work for the government between April and May 2015. The work included “monitoring USA-Africa trade-related activities and advised and assisted the Foreign Principal in the enhancement of trade and commercial relationships between Namibia and the United States, especially on matters relating to the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).”
It is not clear how much the firm was paid, but Washington D.C.’s The Hill newspaper hinted that the law firm received about N$340,000 (US$25,000) for work done only for 18 days in the period between April 13 and April 30, 2015.
The U.S. Justice Department requires companies acting as lobbying agents of foreign governments and political institutions to declare such dealings, with details of their activities and the money received for the execution of such activities.
Miller & Chevalier had assigned to Namibia its special counsel Emmanuel Tamen and P. [Paul] Welles Orr, an international trade adviser at the firm, to work for Namibia’s Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development for the two months of April and May 2015.
Tamen and Orr “monitored legislative and Executive Branch activities and advised and assisted the Foreign Principal [the Namibian government] in the enhancement of trade and commercial relationships between Namibia and the United States especially on matters relating to the African Growth and Opportunity Act,” reported the U.S. National Law Journal, citing what is written in the late FARA registration by Miller & Chevalier.
The trade ministry’s permanent secretary Gabriel Sinimbo requested more time to do due diligence since the activities in question took place nearly two years ago. It has also come to light that some of the key personnel in the ministry who worked on AGOA had since resigned or left the ministry.
Miller & Chevalier’s late filing attracted attention as it came at a time when the Justice Department is prosecuting Paul Manfort, the former campaign chairperson for U.S. President Donald Trump, for violating FARA by failing to disclose lobbying work for the Ukrainian government that predates the Trump’s presidential campaign.
The prosecution of Manfort has prompted many lobbying firms to rush to register their interests, to avoid being guilty of violating FARA laws, as is the case with Manfort.
However, Miller & Chevalier is adamant that its late filing more than two years after doing lobbying work for Namibia “was not prompted by the current rush-to-comply that some firms are experiencing”.
“During a routine process, the firm discovered that it did not file a FARA registration related to a brief period of work for Namibia,” a spokesperson for Miller & Chevalier is quoted as saying by the National Law Journal on Tuesday this week.
“During a routine process, the firm discovered that it did not file a FARA registration related to a brief period of work for Namibia. The engagement lasted just two months in 2015 and, given the complexity of the out-of-time process, the firm has actually been working with FARA to retroactively correct that filing for more than a month,” the National Law Journal quoted the firm’s spokesperson.
“Because Miller & Chevalier represented the Foreign Principal [Namibian government] from April 2015 to May 2015, this registration is being filed retroactively and terminated simultaneously,” the firm said in its registration filing.
Miller & Chevalier also did lobbying work for the governments of Singapore and Guernsey, in 2016.