New feature: Customize your PLUS research experience with My Preferences. Learn more.
Skip to main content

Foreign Agents Registration Act: What Lawyers Need to Know in a Heightened Enforcement Era


Speaker(s): David H. Laufman
Recorded on: Apr. 7, 2020
PLI Program #: 297762

David H. Laufman is a Partner in the Washington, DC, office of Wiggin & Dana LLP, where he serves as Co-Chair of the firm’s National Security Practice Group, a member of its White Collar Defense, Investigations and Corporate Compliance Practice Group, and a member of its International Trade Compliance Practice Group.

Mr. Laufman conducts internal corporate investigations and represents parties in federal criminal investigations and other government enforcement actions, as well as in congressional investigations, Inspector General investigations, and sensitive national security matters. From December 2014 to February 2018, he served as Chief of the Counterintelligence & Export Control Section at the Department of Justice, where he oversaw enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), and investigations and prosecutions involving the theft of trade secrets benefiting a foreign government, instrumentality, or agent (economic espionage); violations of U.S. export control and economic sanctions laws; espionage; cyber intrusions and attacks by nation states and their proxies; the unauthorized retention and disclosure of classified information; and atomic energy and counterproliferation. In addition to these responsibilities, he oversaw the investigation of Hillary Clinton concerning allegations that classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on a personal email server during her tenure as Secretary of State. Prior to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, III, Mr. Laufman also oversaw the investigation of Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Mr. Laufman previously served both as a federal prosecutor and at DOJ's highest operational and policy levels. As Chief of Staff to the Deputy Attorney General from 2001 to 2003, he assisted in the day-to-day management of DOJ and helped to coordinate DOJ's responses to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. From 2003 to 2007, Mr. Laufman served as Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, where he prosecuted terrorism, export control, and other national security offenses. From 2010 to 2011, he served as a Special Trial Attorney to the Fraud Section at DOJ, where, on detail from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction ("SIGIR"), he investigated and prosecuted procurement fraud and corruption related to U.S. economic assistance to Iraq.

Mr. Laufman has received several awards for his work as a federal prosecutor. In 2006, he received the John Marshall Award for Outstanding Legal Achievement, DOJ's highest award for excellence in litigation, for his trial work as lead prosecutor in the terrorism case United States v. Abu Ali. In 2007, Mr. Laufman received the FBI Director's Award for Outstanding Counterterrorism Investigation for his work in United States v. Khan ("the Virginia Jihad case"). In 2011, he received the Award for Excellence in Investigation from the Council of the Inspector Generals for Integrity and Efficiency for his work in the case of United States v. Ayesh, which resulted in new judicial precedent regarding the extraterritorial application of federal conflict-of-interest laws.

Mr. Laufman has devoted much of his career to national security affairs. In the 1980s, he served as a military and political analyst in the Directorate of Intelligence at the Central Intelligence Agency. From 1990 to 1993, he was Deputy Minority Counsel to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he participated in oversight investigations of the executive branch. From 2000 to 2001, he served as Staff

Director and Deputy Chief Counsel to the Judicial Review Commission on Foreign Asset Control, a congressionally mandated body that examined the administration of U.S. laws governing the imposition of economic sanctions by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. While serving as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Attorney General from 2001 to 2003, Mr. Laufman also served as DOJ’s representative to the National Security Council’s Policy Coordinating Committee on Terrorist Financing, a sensitive inter-agency body that formulated intelligence and law enforcement policy and tactics regarding the designation of individuals and organizations suspected of financing al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.

In addition to his work in national security affairs, Mr. Laufman has extensive experience in government ethics and public corruption investigations. From 1992 to 1993, he served as Senior Associate Minority Counsel to the Task Force to Investigate Certain Allegations Concerning the Holding of American Hostages by Iran in 1980 ("October Surprise Task Force"), a special bipartisan panel of the U.S. House of Representatives. Subsequently, he served as Associate Independent Counsel in the Investigation Concerning the Search of William J. Clinton's Passport Files During the 1992 Presidential Election Campaign. From 1996 to 2000, Mr. Laufman served as Investigative Counsel to the Ethics Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he conducted ethics investigations of Members of Congress and coordinated the sanctions hearing of then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Following the Gingrich case, he played a central role in crafting and negotiating changes to the ethics rules of the House of Representatives in his capacity as Assistant to the Special Counsel to the Ethics Reform Task Force. Mr. Laufman also conducted professional misconduct investigations for the Office of Professional Responsibility at DOJ before becoming Chief of Staff to the Deputy Attorney General.

Mr. Laufman has made numerous appearances on network and cable television news, including MSNBC, CNN, and the PBS NewsHour, as well as offering commentary on NPR. He has also been quoted extensively as an expert on national security and criminal justice matters in leading publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Laufman was born in Houston, Texas, where he attended St. John's School. He received his bachelor's degree in 1979 from the University of Pennsylvania, graduating magna cum laude with distinction in international relations. He received his law degree in 1987 from Georgetown University Law Center.