Covington law firm discloses $2,500 top hourly rate in new Ukraine contract

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Covington & Burling offices in Washington, D.C. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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  • The firm will advise a company owned by Ukraine's richest man on potential Russian reparations
  • Rinat Akhmetov has already promised to sue Russian for billions of dollars

(Reuters) - A company owned by Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov has tapped law firm Covington & Burling for advice and U.S. lobbying services in its bid to make Russia pay for destruction wrought by the invasion of Ukraine.

Covington last week signed a contract with SCM Consulting Limited, an affiliate of an investment company whose shareholder is Akhmetov, Ukraine's richest man, a newly-public U.S. Justice Department filing shows.

Lawyers at Washington, D.C.-based Covington will provide "strategic and policy advice" and lobbying services "in support of measures designed to allow Russia to be held accountable for damage inflicted in the course of its ongoing military operations on Ukrainian territory," the documents said.

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The disclosures included a letter from Covington stating that senior partners there now bill up to $2,500 an hour, which would top other publicly reported billing rates at U.S. law firms.

Covington’s website does not list anyone with the title of senior partner, and a firm spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on who would qualify or how many attorneys bill at that hourly rate.

Akhmetov, a former member of Ukraine's parliament, has previously said he would sue Russian for billions of dollars in damages inflicted from the invasion. He owns steel works that were heavily damaged in the shelling of the besieged city of Mariupol. Ukrainian forces spent weeks holed up in Akhmetov's Azovstal steel works before surrendering to Russian soldiers last month.

A Covington spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for more details on the firm's planned work for SCM.

Covington partner Jonathan Gimblett said in the disclosures that he will lead the firm's efforts, joined by senior international policy advisor Alan Larson and senior of counsel Stephen Rademaker, and others at the firm might be brought in. Gimblett said his hourly rate is $1,115, while Larson’s rate is $1,500 and Rademaker bills $1,225 hourly.

Covington lawyers represented Ukraine at the International Court of Justice after the Russian invasion, obtaining a court order directly Russia to halt its military operations in Ukraine. Russia, which calls the war a "special military operation" to "denazify" Ukraine, has not complied with that ruling.

PR firm Qorvis last month registered to perform media relations work for SCM Consulting related to Akhmetov's operations and humanitarian efforts in Ukraine and in opposition to the Russian invasion.

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Jacqueline Thomsen, based in Washington, D.C., covers legal news related to policy, the courts and the legal profession. Follow her on Twitter at @jacq_thomsen and email her at jacqueline.thomsen@thomsonreuters.com.