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New York law firm paid $11M to avoid lawsuit from ex-Ukrainian prime minister: NYT

A New York law firm paid at least $11 million to avoid a lawsuit from Ukraine's former prime minister, The New York Times reported Sunday

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom reportedly paid millions to former Prime Minister Yulia V. Tymoshenko after she accused the law firm of helping justify her imprisonment by a political rival.

The firm started representing the Moscow-aligned government of then-President Viktor F. Yanukovych in 2012 and produced a report that Yanukovych’s supporters used to condone Tymoshenko’s imprisonment, which began in 2011. 

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Tymoshenko was imprisoned on abuse of office charges, which the international community considered politically motivated. But Yanukovych’s government fell in 2014, leading to Tymoshenko’s freedom from prison.

In an interview in December 2018, Tymoshenko told the Times that “it was very painful” to hear about Skadden’s work “when I was in prison and was observing this in solitary confinement.” She accused the law firm of “whitewashing Yanukovych and his government” for money.

“It’s a pity that such a well-known company like Skadden even considered to take this case to deliver,” she said in 2018. “This is a dirty, dirty, dirty contract.”

The former prime minister reportedly hired the law firm Reid Collins & Tsai after the Times interview to determine if it was possible to sue Skadden over the report, two people familiar with the arrangement told the Times. 

Skadden paid $11 million or more to settle the case before a suit was filed, people familiar with the settlement told the Times. Settlement money appeared to have passed through Reid Collins to Tymoshenko and her lawyer Sergei Vlasenko, as each received about $5.5 million from the firm between July and last month. 

Vlasenko’s filings indicate this money came from “foreign income,” while Tymoshenko’s filings said it came as “compensation for the damage caused by the political repression of 2011-2014, which was received in the United States at the stage of precourt settlement.”

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William T. Reid, IV, a founding member of Reid Collins & Tsai, said in an email to The Hill that the firm was unable to comment but could confirm Tymoshenko was a client of the firm. 

Skadden did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Last year, Skadden paid the Department of Justice $4.6 million to settle an investigation into whether the law firm’s work with Ukraine violated foreign lobbying laws. In filings, the law firm said it had been paid more than $5.2 million for its work, but the Times reported that it returned $567,000 to the Ukrainian government after scrutiny continued in 2017.