Law firm Vinson & Elkins represents Iraq oil ministry in State Dept. briefing

The seal of the United States Department of State is seen in Washington, U.S., January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

  • U.S. officials seek details about Iraq arbitration over pipeline
  • Vinson & Elkins’ filing shows legal fees, hourly rate

(Reuters) – U.S. law firm Vinson & Elkins will represent the Iraqi Ministry of Oil before the U.S. State Department amid a long-running dispute between Iraq and Turkey over a pipeline agreement, according to newly disclosed U.S. regulatory filings.

The Texas-based law firm, which focuses on energy matters, disclosed its work for the Iraqi oil ministry this week in filings submitted to the U.S. Justice Department under a federal law called the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

The FARA law requires law firms, lobbyists and others to reveal certain work for foreign governments that is beyond traditional court-based legal services. The disclosures can offer a glimpse at information about law firm compensation and clients that is otherwise not widely published.

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Vinson & Elkins partner James Loftis in Houston said in the July 18 filings that the State Department sought a briefing about legal issues in a pending arbitration Iraq filed in 2014 against Turkey over claims the country breached an agreement involving a key oil pipeline.

Loftis, leader of the firm’s international dispute resolution practice, is billing at $900 an hour, the filings showed.

Vinson & Elkins represents Iraq in the arbitration at the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce. The firm disclosed in its FARA filings receiving more than $2.5 million in fees in May and June for legal services tied to the Iraqi oil ministry’s arbitration.

Vinson & Elkins declined to comment about the firm’s advocacy and FARA registration, a first for the 700-lawyer firm under the decades-old U.S. law

Representatives from the U.S. State Department and the International Chamber of Commerce declined to comment.

A representative from the oil ministry did not immediately return a message seeking comment. A lawyer for Turkey at King & Spalding did not immediately respond to a similar message.

The Iraqi oil ministry’s ties to U.S. firms also includes Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. The firm said in a foreign-agent disclosure at the DOJ last month that its work focused on issues relating to oil and gas policy in Iraq.

Cleary Gottlieb reported receiving more than $188,000 in legal fees in April from the oil ministry, according to its DOJ filings.

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