Africa, Energy, New in Lobbying

Angola slashes Squire Patton Boggs contract by $1.6 M amid oil crash

Angola extended its lobbying contract with Squire Patton Boggs for the next two years but cut annual costs by a massive $1.6 million as the African nation struggles with collapsing oil prices.

The contract amendment, dated June 18, was signed by Squire Patton Boggs partner Robert Kapla and Secretary for Diplomatic Affairs and International Cooperation Victor Manuel Rita da Fonseca Lima. The new rate is $2.5 million per year, down 40 percent from the $4.1 million agreed to last year.

Last year’s rate included almost $1.1 million that Squire Patton Boggs passed on to Erme Capital, a company incorporated in Malta, to “assist” with the representation of the Angolan government. It wasn’t immediately clear if Erme will still be getting paid under the contract extension. Neither Squire Patton Boggs nor the Embassy of Angola in Washington responded to requests for comment.

The lobbying effort has three priorities:

  • Bringing Angola’s financial system up to international standards so commercial banks can resume dollar-denominated transactions;
  • Increasing US trade and investment; and
  • Enhancing Angola’s profile in the United States.

Angola has been aggressively courting international investors since 2017 elections that saw President Jose Eduardo dos Santos step down after 38 years in power in favor of Joao Lourenco. Mass corruption under the former president has caused an exodus of banks, with Deutsche Bank‘s departure in 2016 leaving the country without any banks able to handle US-denominated transactions.

Alex Vines, the head of the Africa program at London’s Chatham House since 2002, said the country hasn’t seen much improvement in the banking sector over the past year.

“There hasn’t been any progress, really,” said Vines, who is also the managing director for risk, ethics and resilience at Chatham House. “The Angolans are working much more in Euros than in dollars for that reason.”

Meanwhile collapsing oil prices have walloped the economy, which is the most oil-dependent in Africa.

“A, the Angolan government has much less disposable income to distribute to pay for things like lobbyists,” Vines told Foreign Lobby Report. “And B, the lobbying firm didn’t achieve some of the objectives. So that [could explain] why there’s a significant pay cut.”

During the second half of 2019, lobbyists for the firm disclosed two meetings and several phones calls with US Ambassador to Angola Nina Fite. Squire Patton Boggs lobbyists also had dinner with Export-Import Bank general counsel David Slade and met with the bank’s director for Africa Rick Angiuoni. They also disclosed meetings with the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation’s managing director for Africa, Worku Gachou; Deputy Assistant Secretary of Treasury for Africa Eric Meyer; and Randal Quarles, the vice chairman of supervision at the Federal Reserve; and a phone call with Federal Reserve Bank of New York vice-president Matt Nemet.

On Capitol Hill, lobbyist emailed dozens of congressional aides and met with staffers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. They also met with aides to: Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs panel on Africa; House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.); and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.).

Squire Patton Boggs has seven people registered as foreign agents on the contract in addition to Kapla: Pablo Carrillo, Angela Freyre, Rory Murphy, David Schnittger, James Sivon, David Stewart and Daniel Waltz.