March 21, 2017

March 21, 2017

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March 20, 2017

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THE LATEST: Further Efforts to Broaden the Scope and Impact for CFIUS Reviews of Foreign Acquisitions of US Businesses

We reported earlier on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) and its legal and practical authority to review M&A transactions for possible risks to US national security posed by foreign ownership of a US business. Sens. Cornyn (R-TX) and Schumer (D-NY) reportedly are working separately on legislation to strengthen CFIUS, which could directly affect some cross-border M&A. Sen. Cornyn’s proposed changes to CFIUS would target Chinese technology investments while Sen. Schumer’s bill would encourage CFIUS to look at economic implications as part of its review.  These legislative efforts follow a bipartisan Congressional request in late Fall 2016 for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to update its periodic analysis of CFIUS, urging the GAO to evaluate the possible expansion of factors considered by CFIUS in its M&A reviews to cover investment reciprocity and net economic benefits.

WHAT HAPPENED:

  • Now Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) have introduced legislation that would add the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services as voting members of CFIUS. The bill would also direct CFIUS to consider matters of food security, access and safety when it reviews overseas acquisitions of US firms.

  • Though CFIUS may already consider food security as an element of national security, the new proposal would at a minimum enhance this factor. Stabenow said in a statement introducing the bill, “As foreign entities continue their aggressive acquisitions of US food and agriculture companies, it’s imperative that these transactions face additional scrutiny.”

WHAT THIS MEANS:

  • More broadly, the bipartisan legislative activity suggests an increased likelihood that CFIUS reform will gain traction in the Congress. Further support for broadening the scope and force of CFIUS may come from the Trump Administration, which would be consistent with its “America first” trade policy.

  • Any businesses with planned or pending cross-border M&A activity in the US, including those in the agribusiness sector, should monitor these developments.
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About this Author

Mary Strimel, McDermott Law Firm, Merger and Acquisition Attorney
Partner

Mary Strimel advises and defends clients on mergers, acquisitions, criminal price-fixing, class actions and other antitrust investigations before the US Department of Justice, the US Federal Trade Commission, state and federal courts, and foreign competition authorities. Her criminal and civil antitrust work has spanned a wide range of industries, including transportation, software, financial markets, data publishing, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, glass, industrial products, alcoholic beverages, and telecommunications.

Mary was an attorney with the DOJ Antitrust...

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Partner

David J. Levine is a partner in the International Trade Practice of the law firm McDermott Will & Emery LLP and is based in the Firm’s Washington, D.C., office.  David practices before international trade organizations, federal agencies and courts regarding international trade and related regulatory matters. 

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