Washington's largest lobbying firm in terms of revenue has set its eyes set on Cuba, now that the long-frozen relations between the U.S. and its island neighbor continue to thaw.
The prominent political law firm of Akin Gump is launching a new practice that will help its clients in the U.S. navigate the expanding, but still murky, policies that have cropped up since the Washington and Havana announced they were renewing relations last December.
To lead up the new practice, Akin Gump tapped one of the firm's leading lobbyists on foreign governments, Scott Parven, who in the past has worked with Hillary Clinton and the government of Japan.
"Akin Gump has been advising clients seeking to enter the Cuban market for years, and the launch of this initiative is an outgrowth of that," Parven said in a release, adding that the practice's main goal is to recruit clients who want help establishing a presence in Cuba.
Parven said that Akin Gump has a good deal of experience operating in newly opened markets to the U.S. given the firm's long history and international experience.
"Our focus on Cuba harkens back to a time several decades back when the firm was positioned to help clients seeking entrance into another newly opened market — Russia," Parven said. "Then, as now, the firm assembled a team of professionals with not only legal and business acumen, but also in-depth knowledge of relevant economic and diplomatic policy, to help clients navigate a new and swiftly changing environment."
Along with Parven, the firm has also hired Anya Landau French, a specialist in international relations policy who served as an aide to former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana), to help build up its work with Cuba. She previously was a senior fellow at the nonprofit Center for Democracy in the Americas and has made more than two dozen trips to Cuba since 2000, including during her time as an international trade adviser to the Senate Finance Committee.
In the statement Landau French said, “While many businesses are understandably keen to explore the possibilities that exist following the thawing of U.S.-Cuban relations, the foundation of any successful strategy will involve the development of mutual trust and understanding with Cuban counterparts.”
Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro announced on Dec. 17, 2014, that they would re-establish diplomatic ties after 54 years, spurring a host of changes including the reopening of embassies, joint talks and the easing of restrictions on business and travel.
While Akin Gump may be the largest firm eyeing Cuba, it is certainly not the first or only firm looking at the island. The non-profit Engage Cuba earlier this year hired the all-GOP lobbying company, Fierce Government Relations, to work on behalf of the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act.