DOJ Wins First FARA Civil Enforcement Case Since 1991

Author:Ms Olivia N. Marshall
Profession:Caplin & Drysdale

On May 6, 2019, the U.S. District Court of Southern Florida ruled in favor of the Department of Justice ("DOJ") in a proceeding that involved a Florida broadcasting company named RM Broadcasting, which contended it should not be required to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act ("FARA") as a result of its involvement in the U.S. distribution of the Russian radio channel Sputnik. The Sputnik radio channel is owned and produced by the Russian state-owned media corporation Rossiya Segodnya.

This case is the first civil enforcement case that DOJ has pursued since 1991.

In June 2018, DOJ advised RM Broadcasting that it was required to register under FARA as a foreign agent by virtue of its services for Rossiya Segodnya. RM Broadcasting filed suit, seeking declaratory judgment that it was not required to register under FARA. DOJ, in turn, filed a counterclaim for injunctive relief to require RM Broadcasting to register, laying out its case that Rossiya Segodnya maintained “complete control over the content” of RM Broadcasting's station through its contract and worked “to advance Russian interests” in the U.S.

The District Court granted DOJ's motion for judgment on the pleadings, holding that RM Broadcasting was indeed anagent of a foreign principal required to register under FARA. In doing so, the Court rejected RM Broadcasting's claim that itsimply buys and resells radio airtime and that it...

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