On September 15, President Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) with the first ever formal Presidential direction to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS or the Committee). The EO emphasizes the risks that the Committee should consider when reviewing covered foreign company purchases of U.S. businesses. The EO is intended reemphasize existing CFIUS concerns that countries are increasingly stepping up efforts to obtain the “sensitive personal data” of U.S. persons and technology critical to U.S. national security, with a focus on export-controlled know-how. The new measures from the EO are outlined below.
Supply Chain Resilience. The EO directs the Committee to consider a covered transaction’s effect on supply chain resilience and security, both within and outside of the defense industrial base. The underlying message is that CFIUS should look broadly at supply chain effects of proposed acquisitions and not just focus on direct national security effects. The concept of the U.S. supply chain writ large as a CFIUS national security concern is relatively new and could lead to CFIUS reviews of more proposed transactions.
U.S. Technological Superiority. The EO identifies sectors crucial to the U.S.’s global technological advantage, including, but not limited to, microelectronics, artificial intelligence, biotechnology and biomanufacturing, quantum computing, advanced clean energy, climate adaptation technologies, and the agricultural industrial base. The EO directs the Committee to consider whether or not a transaction would compromise the manufacturing capabilities, services, critical mineral resources, or technologies of the listed sectors.
Industry Investment. The EO also directs the Committee to consider the risks arising from a covered transaction in the context of multiple acquisitions or investments in a single sector or in related sectors in order to safeguard any given sector from compromise / control by an adversarial foreign entity.
Cybersecurity. The EO directs the Committee to consider whether a covered transaction may provide a foreign person, or a third-party, with access to conduct malicious cyber activities, in addition to the cybersecurity posture, practices, capabilities, and access of all parties to the transaction that could afford a foreign person, or third-party, the ability to achieve such activities.
Sensitive Personal Data. The EO directs the Committee to consider whether a covered transaction involves a U.S. business with access to U.S. persons’ sensitive data, and whether the foreign investor has the ability to exploit such information to the detriment of national security, including through the use of commercial or other means.
This EO instructs CFIUS to pay attention to many areas that are already the focus of Committee activity – as reflected in the Committee’s regulations and in much of itsrecent activity. That said, the instruction on supply chains will encourage CFIUS to think more broadly in that area. The EO is also intended as a message to U.S. acquisition targets and to non-U.S. companies thinking about acquisitions, including Chinese companies that have been contemplating a stricter CFIUS landscape, that scrutiny of proposed transactions in the key areas listed will be enhanced even further. The EO is also a message that can be referenced in forthcoming mid-term election races that this administration is intent on protecting U.S. national security as defined very broadly by this EO.