On March 28, 2023, the Department of Justice released remarks from a senior official shedding light on DoJ priorities for potential reform and change to the current law on registration of foreign agents. The remarks affirm clear DoJ intention to strengthen – and clarify – obligations and enforcement authority under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) and related regulations.

At the 2023 Summit for Democracy in Washington D.C., DoJ DAG Monaco spoke on several topics. Among other things, her prepared remarks addressed “foreign malign influence” from countries which oppose or undermine American democratic values. She also referenced how the DoJ may use the FARA to combat foreign efforts to undermine democracy, and reaffirmed commitment to protecting “free and fair elections.”

An excerpt of her prepared remarks addressing the FARA and potential changes, is below:

The American people have a right to know when a foreign government seeks to influence policy decisions or public opinion here in the United States of America. At the Justice Department, we’re doing everything we can to expose this behavior. Specifically, we’re strengthening enforcement of the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) to bolster transparency of foreign activities in the United States. In the coming months we will issue new rules to clarify the range of activities that require registration under the Act. We are working with Congress to modernize our FARA regime and to give us the tools we need in today’s threat environment. Our adversaries are relentless in finding new ways to undermine our institutions. It is incumbent on us to update and refresh our tools to combat their malign influence.

DAG Monaco’s comments make it clear that DoJ will seek to expand its capabilities in this space, in alignment with its priorities. These comments signal more aggressive FARA enforcement is likely to continue, and staying current on the potential changes in this area is critical to those who work with foreign principals.

Recently, a law which could adjust one of the most significant FARA exemptions – the Lobbying Disclosure Act (“LDA”) exemption – just made it out of Committee for the second time. The Lobbying Disclosure Improvement Act of 2022, S. 4893, 117th Cong. (2022), (see also the Foreign Agents Registration Amendments Act of 2018, S. 2482, 115th Cong. (2018)) would amend the LDA to require disclosure for registrants relying on the LDA exemption for registrable activities under FARA. This would be a new requirement for LDA registrants relying on this exemption and create an interesting new requirement.

Fluet is monitoring this and related changes to the FARA space to ensure we can continue to provide quality advice and guidance in this critical area.

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