On May 21, the U.S. Treasury Department, as chair of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”), issued a proposed rule that more directly links mandatory filing obligations with export control restrictions administered by other federal agencies, including the Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) and the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (“DDTC”).  The rule is open for comment until June 22.

Pursuant to amendments implementing the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (“FIRRMA”), which expanded CFIUS jurisdiction in several respects, certain types of transactions are subject to mandatory declarations with CFIUS.  Currently, one type of transaction that requires a mandatory filing is one in which: 1) the target company produces, designs, tests, manufactures, fabricates, or develops a “critical technology.”  A “critical technology” is an item that is included on one of the U.S. export control lists, including the Commerce Control List (“CCL”), included within the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”); and 2) the target company uses the critical in a sensitive industry, identified in Appendix B to the CFIUS regulations (31 C.F.R. Part 800).  This two-prong test is slightly more strict than the export control regulations themselves because an item included in the CCL is not generally restricted for export to all destinations.  For example, transactions with NATO allies are generally subject to more permissive restrictions than are transactions with other countries.  The current CFIUS mandatory declaration framework does not account for this distinction.
Continue Reading CFIUS Issues Proposed Rule to Amend Mandatory Declaration Requirements

Even as companies make rapid changes to respond to business challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, executives and compliance team leaders must protect their company and employees by continuing to comply with critical U.S. international trade laws and regulations (including those addressing customs, anti-corruption, export controls, and economic sanctions).  Trade regulations are not suspended, and it is important to not make assumptions or conclude that the law does not apply during this difficult time with all of the issues competing for attention, not least family and employee health and company survival.  With the need to move so quickly, we have seen clients inadvertently come close to trade compliance violations that would not pose a problem for them in normal times.  The following suggestions are intended to help companies reduce the risk of certain significant federal international trade law violations and avoid inbound and outbound shipment delays – while continuing to operate.

Trade rules and surrounding circumstances are changing quickly.  For example, the Administration very recently appeared to be seriously considering suspending or lowering certain import tariffs, but backed away from that approach given the complexity of administering a revised system on short notice, among other problems.  You are likely also seeing reports about various countries’ restrictions on exports of medicine, medical equipment (including protective equipment and ventilators), and food, among other products.  How do you keep up with what is actually happening that may affect your company and what is just rumor that you do not need to react to?

One step companies are taking is to include key personnel from their trade compliance and legal teams in the decision processes related to changing international transactions.  You need to move quickly, but including a team member who knows trade rules can help keep things on track and help avoid clear compliance errors.

Here are four substantive areas of U.S. trade regulation that should continue to be part of international transaction diligence:  U.S. anti-corruption, export controls, and sanctions laws (that permit most exports of medicines, medical devices, and food to sanctioned locations), and U.S. Customs rules on personal protective equipment and medical devices (among other imported items).
Continue Reading COVID-19 – Four Key International Trade Compliance Considerations

On January 17, 2020, the U.S. Treasury Department published final rules in the Federal Register implementing the Foreign Risk Review Modernization Act (“FIRRMA”), one of which implements FIRRMA’s provisions regarding foreign investments in U.S. real estate.  In accordance with FIRRMA’s expansion of Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”) jurisdiction, these final rules

On January 17, the U.S. Treasury Department issued final rules implementing the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (“FIRRMA”), which expanded and clarified the jurisdiction of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”) (an additional final rule regarding real estate transactions was published the same day and will be the subject of

Companies outside the U.S. contemplating purchases of U.S. business (and potential U.S. acquisition targets) are continuing to parse the Department of the Treasury’s two proposed regulations continuing implementation of the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (“FIRRMA”).  The proposed rules change the Committee’s jurisdiction and certain procedures related to the national security reviews undertaken by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”).  These proposed regulations provide additional clarity regarding how CFIUS intends to implement the FIRRMA amendments.  When implemented, these regulations will formally expand CFIUS jurisdiction – but will also formalize current CFIUS practice in most respects.  Implementation is scheduled to occur on or before February 13, 2020.[1]

Jurisdiction over non-controlling investments

Traditionally, CFIUS exercised jurisdiction over investments that result in the “control” of a non-U.S. person over a U.S. business.  After FIRRMA implementation, CFIUS will have jurisdiction over certain investments that do not result in control by a non-U.S. person.  Specifically, CFIUS will have jurisdiction over non-controlling investments if the investment is in a specific company type, and if it affords the investor specific, enumerated rights.

The draft regulations identify several company types that satisfy the first part of the test.  The first type is a business that produces or otherwise deals in certain “critical technologies.”  A separate statute[2] authorizes the Department of Commerce to identify these critical technologies.  Although the Department of Commerce did identify examples of these technologies in a 2018 rulemaking, that process is not yet complete.
Continue Reading CFIUS to Cover More Foreign Investments in U.S. Companies

After months of negotiation, Congress recently passed, and the president is expected to sign, the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018 (“FIRRMA”).[1]  FIRRMA updates the national security review of inbound investments undertaken by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (“CFIUS” or “the Committee”), an interagency body located within the

On Wednesday, President Trump issued a statement in support of restrictions on Chinese investment in the United States in firms with critical technologies, and in greater protection of those technologies through enhanced export controls.  In particular, the President has thrown his support behind the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA), bipartisan legislation that passed in the House on Tuesday.  FIRRMA intend to strengthen the existing Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) by expanding the scope of foreign investment restrictions that the Administration could block for national security reasons.

CFIUS is an inter-agency committee that has jurisdiction to review transactions that could result in control of a U.S. business by a foreign person  If CFIUS determines the transaction presents a national security risk, it can take action to mitigate the risk or refer the case to the President for further action.  The reforms under FIRRMA would expand CFIUS’s jurisdiction to review foreign minority investments in start-ups in key sectors, certain sensitive real estate transactions, and joint ventures – all of which are currently not subject to examination.  The FIRRMA bill passed in the House specifically notes that the “national security risks related to foreign investment, particularly those emanating from countries such as China and Russia, warrant an appropriate modernization of the processes and authorities of {CFIUS}.”  FIRRMA would also expand existing export controls that govern trade in sensitive technologies.
Continue Reading President Trump Targets Chinese Investments in the United States

According to Bloomberg, the Trump administration is considering using the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) to block Chinese investments in industries or technologies “deemed important” to the U.S.  (This statute has been used primarily to authorize economic sanctions and embargoes administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control).  To utilize IEEPA, the President

A bipartisan group of co-sponsors in both the House and the Senate recently introduced the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (“FIRRMA”).  These substantively identical bills demonstrate that Congress is now considering increasing the scrutiny of foreign investment in the U.S., particularly from China.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”) is the interagency body is responsible for reviewing incoming foreign investments for national security risks, so long as they are “covered transactions.”  FIRRMA would broaden the scope of “covered transactions” to include, among other things: the purchase or lease by a foreign person of real estate located near U.S. military or national security interests; non-passive investments in critical technologies or critical infrastructure; and the contribution of U.S. critical technology to a foreign person, including through joint ventures, among others.  The bills would also update certain terms and definitions, including “critical technology,” which can include emerging technologies that are not necessarily controlled for export.  Notably, FIRRMA would not extend CFIUS jurisdiction to “greenfield” investments, which the regulations carve out from CFIUS review. 
Continue Reading Congress Proposes Increased Scrutiny on Foreign Investments in the U.S.