Updated 5:19 p.m.
As Patton Boggs helps Lebanon's financial regulator assuage concerns in Washington about Lebanese banks' alleged money laundering for terrorists, a bank in the country has come to the firm for assistance.
Beirut-based MEAB SAL, once known as the Middle East and Africa Bank, has retained Patton Boggs to lobby for it on unspecified international banking matters, according to lobbying registration paperwork filed with Congress last week. Patton Boggs partners Gassan Baloul and Stephen McHale are handling the account.
McHale, a former U.S. Treasury Department lawyer, counts global anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing controls among his specialties. Baloul also has expertise in financial crimes matters, including issues concerning Middle East clients.
Hezbollah, a major Lebanese movement that the United States considers a terrorist organization, is fighting for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad whose country borders Lebanon. U.S. officials said last month that the United States would supply weapons to the Syrian rebels, The New York Times reported.
MEAB has faced allegations that it has ties to Hezbollah. But the bank has told NBC News that it doesn't have any links to the group, and says on its website that it "strictly" follows money laundering and terrorist financing laws.
"Since its establishment, MEAB has assured adherence to all the rules and regulations issued by our Lebanese regulatory who comply with the provisions of the United States patriot act," the website says.
For Banque du Liban, Lebanon's financial regulator, Patton Boggs is helping with "the promotion of the image of Lebanese banking before the U.S. Congress and Administration," name partner Thomas Boggs Jr. wrote in a September 28, 2012, letter to the Banque du Liban governor.
Last year, Patton Boggs lobbyists met with staffers on the House Financial Services Committee, Senate Banking Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as with Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, then the top Republican on the banking panel.
Congressional staffers elaborated on two of the meetings, saying the gatherings included discussions on anti-money laundering efforts in Lebanon.
MEAB isn't new to lobbying in Washington, according to congressional records. The bank has retained BGR Government Affairs to lobby for it since 2009. But the firm hasn't disclosed any lobbying activity for MEAB this year.
BGR Government Affairs last reported advocating for the bank during the fourth quarter of 2012. The firm received $70,000 during that quarter to give "strategic advice and counsel on international banking issues" and contact the U.S. State Department, a congressional lobbying report shows.