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The Big Law Lawyers on Putin’s Travel Ban List

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More than three dozen lawyers—many with Big Law ties—appear on the Russian Federation’s travel ban list of American citizens.

The U.S. earlier in the year sanctioned certain Russian citizens—mostly oligarchs, government officials and flunkies of Russian President Vladimir Putin—over the country’s unlawful and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

In a tit-for-tat, Russia banned 1,000 Americans last month. So far, Law.com has identified at least 40 lawyers on the list, which bans certain U.S. citizens from traveling to Russia. Some of these lawyers are U.S. officials, but others are in private practice.

Many of these lawyers are current or former Justice Department attorneys, federal court judges or prosecutors around the country; U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is high on the list. But they are also private practice lawyers at large law firms, such as Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer; Katten Muchin Rosenman; King & Spalding; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Shearman & Sterling; Squire Patton Boggs; Stroock & Stroock & Lavan; Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; Vinson & Elkins; Williams & Connolly; Willkie Farr & Gallagher; Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr; and more.

James Walden, founder of litigation boutique Walden Macht & Haran, knows exactly why he is on Putin’s list. Walden represented Russian whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov when he testified before the U.S. Congress in 2018 about widespread Russian doping in sports.

Walden also contributed heavily to the drafting of the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act (RADA), which criminalized doping fraud in international sports, and provided a way for the DOJ to investigate and prosecute corrupt practices.

“I laughed,” said Walden of his reaction to finding out he was on the list. “Browsing through the list, I saw a lot of names that I recognized of a lot of people that I respect, so I thought, ‘OK, I’m on the list of good Americans.’”

Walden is banned person No. 841, and a colleague of his quipped that Walden should put that number on his business card.

But turning serious, Walden said he was not surprised Russia would “reach” into private practice to essentially “retaliate against critics.”

What do you expect from a country that “murders people that it doesn’t like,” he said.

“I know that of the highest levels at the Kremlin, there was a lot of consternation about the position I was taking about the level of corruption and the degree to which Russian tentacles still corrupt parts of the international sporting world,” said Walden.

Rodchenkov has had to remain in hiding for fear of Russian retaliation, and Walden said years ago the FBI had cautioned him not to travel to Russia.

“A few years ago, I did want to go there, to interview a couple of people I thought would be helpful to what we were trying to achieve, but I was advised that I should stay away,” said Walden.

Wilmer appears to have the most lawyers—past and present—on the list: Preet Bharara, Brendan McGuire, Anjan Sahni and Robert Mueller appear as targets of Russia’s ire. Bharara recently joined Wilmer after an extended break from practicing law since he was fired by former President Donald Trump from the top job in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the the Southern District of New York. Sanji was at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for SDNY for over a decade before joining Wilmer in 2015. McGuire is also an SDNY alumni. He left Wilmer in December to join New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ team as chief counsel. Mueller—of the eponymous Mueller Report into allegations of Russian collusion with Trump in the 2020 election—is also on the list. After his time at the FBI, Mueller became a partner at Wilmer but retired earlier this year.

At King & Spalding, former U.S. deputy attorneys general Rod Rosenstein and Sally Yates are also on the list. Both were deputy AGs while Trump was president, and both reportedly refused at one point or another, to follow orders by the then-president. Rosenstein resigned in 2019, while Yates was fired in 2017.

Former House Speaker John Boehner, a senior strategic adviser at Squire, can never visit Russia, either. Boehner is likely unsurprised by this new limit on his ability to travel. The Federation also targeted him in 2014, along with then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, after then-President Barack Obama announced sanctions against Russia for its annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine. Akin Gump’s Kevin Wolf—an assistant secretary of Commerce in the Obama administration—also appeared on the 2014 list.

Cooley’s Annie Froehlich is an export controls, sanctions, anti-corruption and national security lawyer. Unlike many of the lawyers on Russia’s travel ban, Froehlich has never held a government position.

So too, Morgan Lewis trial lawyer Seth Gerber has only ever been in private practice. He currently leads Morgan Lewis’ IP trade secrets working group and has a well-known litigation practice that includes misappropriation of trade secrets. He has led multiple cross-border litigation matters involving the theft of trade secrets and property overseas.

Before joining Stroock, Shira Scheindlin, also on the list, was a federal district judge. One of her cases was that of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for federal narco-terrorism charges. Bout was sentenced in 2012.

Other Big Law attorneys on the list of people banned from entering Russia include Arnold & Porter’s John Bellinger, Katten’s Michael Rosensaft, Shearman’s Christopher LaVigne, Skadden’s Jessie Liu, Vinson & Elkins’ Zachary Terwilliger, Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz’s Sarah Eddy, Williams & Connolly’s David Aufhauser and Willkie’s Randall Jackson.

But Putin has not just targeted lawyers at big firms. Dmitry Gurovich, born in the former Soviet Union, immigrated to the United States in 1980 and now runs a criminal defense firm in Sherman Oaks—Gurovich, Berk & Associates.

Washington-based attorneys Alyza and Nathan Lewin at two-lawyer appellate specialist Lewin & Lewin are both on the list.

Former SDNY deputy U.S. attorney Christian Everdell from Cohen & Gresser is also banned. Everdell is in Cohen & Gresser’s white-collar defense and regulation, and litigation and arbitration groups, and he leads the firm’s U.S. privacy and data security group.

The list of private practice lawyers almost exclusively comprises attorneys at law firms. However, John Demers, corporate secretary of Boeing and an assistant general counsel at the American aerospace company, appears to be one of the few in-house lawyers sanctioned by the Federation.

Also on the list is John Yoo, a professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley. Yoo teaches public law and policy but has served in all three branches of government. He was an official in the U.S. Department of Justice, general counsel of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, and clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Most of the lawyers referenced in this story did not immediately return messages seeking comment about their appearance on the Russia list.


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