Huawei adds Washington lobbyists to navigate US sanctions

Nikkei

Sidley Austin lawyers will help company on export controls and security topics.

Sidley Austin already represents Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in a criminal case involving the U.S. Justice Department. (Nikkei montage/Getty Images)

Sidley Austin already represents Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in a criminal case involving the U.S. Justice Department. (Nikkei montage/Getty Images)

Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies has added three lawyers with expertise on economic sanctions to its lobbying network in Washington as the company faces increasing pressure from the Trump administration.

The three personnel from law firm Sidley Austin will work on behalf of Huawei in areas such as "export controls, trade, and economic sanctions and other national security-related topics," a recent government filing shows.

Sidley Austin is a general practice law firm based in Chicago with expertise in transactional and litigation matters. The three lawyers who registered recently as lobbyists for Huawei -- Robert Torresen, Thomas Green and Mark Hopson -- specialize in white-collar crime and economic sanctions.

Green formerly managed Sidley's federal and state investigation and white-collar defense practice group in Washington. Torresen focuses his practice on the areas of export controls, economic sanctions and customs laws. Hopson is a trial lawyer who covers government enforcement actions and other high-stakes litigation.

Huawei was placed on the U.S. Commerce Department's "Entity List" in May, essentially barring the company from procuring American components. Though President Donald Trump has hinted at relaxing the rules for Huawei, much is subject to the ongoing trade negotiations between Beijing and Washington.

The American campaign against Huawei goes beyond the export blacklist. On Wednesday, the U.S. agency responsible for government contracts released an interim rule for a ban on federal purchases of telecom equipment from five Chinese companies including Huawei.

Sidley Austin already represents Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in a pending criminal case. The U.S. Justice Department alleges that she lied to banks about Huawei's relationship with an unofficial subsidiary in Iran in order to obtain banking services, in violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran.

The law firm also represented Huawei when the telecom giant sued the Commerce Department in June over seized equipment. Huawei alleged the American government took possession of several pieces of equipment that were being shipped from an independent testing facility in the U.S. to China in 2017. The company said that despite providing the necessary documentation, the equipment remains in an Alaska warehouse, according to a complaint file.

Huawei disclosed earlier this year that it has been working with two other U.S. law firms -- Jones Day and Steptoe & Johnson -- which have lobbied for the company on issues such as "foreign investment, government purchasing, and security-related issues arising pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act, and in connection with matters at the Department of Commerce and the White House," federal filings show.

The company has spent $125,000 on lobbying so far this year, after spending $165,000 in 2018, according to OpenSecrets.

Huawei declined to comment. Sidley Austin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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