On May 21, 2020, a proposed rule change brought the threat of a mandatory CFIUS filing to investments across all U.S. industries. The U.S. Department of Treasury proposed a rule[1] that removes a restriction formerly in the Foreign Risk Review Modernization Act’s (FIRRMA) that limited mandatory filings with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to only 27 industries.

The proposed rule is consistent with a series of changes by the Trump Administration aimed at decreasing Chinese access to U.S. technology (through export controls, FDI review, and other restrictions). However, the rule change may create complications for investments from a wide range of countries.
Continue Reading CFIUS UPDATE ISSUE — Well I Do Declare: Mandatory Declarations Everywhere

The pandemic that has put our world a bit sideways has, as you might expect, set back our publication date. We should have paper copies of the (much anticipated) CFIUS Book: Second Edition available by mid-May 2020. However, because we have the text ready, we will publish a series of preview excerpts for your review and, of course, as teasers for the New York Review of Books.

In this excerpt we discuss a new decision that investors will face as they approach investment in the United States, whether to file a full Joint Voluntary Notice or to file a short-form Declaration, also sometimes referred to as “CFIUS Lite.”

Please don’t hesitate to reach out and tell us what you think.

— Reid Whitten
Continue Reading The CFIUS Book: Second Edition (Slight Delay)

Key Takeaways:

  • Technology Infrastructure and Data. CFIUS will focus its review on investments in critical Technology, critical Infrastructure, and sensitive personal Data (“TID Businesses”).
    • Critical technologies is defined to include certain items subject to export controls along with emerging and foundational technologies under the Export Control Reform Act of 2018.
    • CFIUS provides a very helpful list of critical infrastructure and functions to help assess whether any business is a TID Business. We reproduce most of this list at the end of this blog article. (Sneak preview: telecom, utilities, energy, and transportation dominate the list.)
    • The proposed regulations provide much-needed guidance on what constitutes sensitive personal data and also seek to limit the reach of the definition so it does not cast too wide a net over transactions in which CFIUS really should have no national security concern.
  • Exceptions for Certain Countries. Investors from certain countries may be excepted from CFIUS jurisdiction when making non-controlling investments.
  • New Set of Rules for Real Estate. In a companion piece, CFIUS proposed for the first time a detailed set of rules related to investments in real estate. We will cover this in a separate blog article to be published in the near future.
  • Expansion of Short-Form Declaration Use. The proposed rules provide parties the choice to use a short-form declaration for any transaction under CFIUS jurisdiction in lieu of a long-form notice.
  • Comments Due by October 17, 2019. Members of the public may submit comments on the proposed regulations any time between now and October 17, 2019. Final regulations must be adopted by CFIUS and become effective no later than February 13, 2020.


Continue Reading CFIUS Proposes Rules to Implement FIRRMA

This article originally appeared in Risk & Compliance magazine in the UK, a publication of Financier Worldwide. The piece includes UK spelling and grammar.

Key Takeaways:

A wave is coming. An enormous wave of regulation will soon crash on Silicon Valley, Boston and other tech centres around the United States, and very few people have their surfboards ready.

Major technologies in exciting emerging fields (among them, biomedicines, virtual reality, and robotics) will soon be subject to strict export controls that will limit who can receive the technologies, who can use them, and even who can research them.

Forthcoming export controls will disrupt logistics planning, information sharing, R&D, and acquisition strategies for companies in the United States and all around the world.
Continue Reading INTERNATIONAL TECH INVESTMENT ISSUE – A Wave of Export Regulation to Hit US Technologies

I spent last week in Seoul talking to clients about the latest changes to U.S. trade and sanctions policy (as South Korea is one of Iran’s largest trading partners, it is understandable that some concerns have arisen there in May). Interestingly, a topic that came up often was how to reenter the North Korean market. The people with whom I spoke, in industries ranging from financial, to manufacturing, to technology, to legal, were sanguine on the possibility of a détente and the resulting opportunities for investment, growth, and profit in a reopened North Korea.
Continue Reading Your Way-Too-Early Guide to North Korean Investment: Big Opportunities, Big Risks, and the Regulatory Guidance to Identify Both

CFIUS is expanding its reach. Where the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has generally scrutinized foreign acquisition of U.S. “critical infrastructure,” it has now signaled that it may look closely at any deal where the target collects or maintains sensitive personal information.
Continue Reading In-fo’ a CFIUS Review: The Expanding Power of CFIUS through Data Security Scrutiny

Article Highlights:

  • Non-U.S. banks can do business with Iran and continue their relationships with U.S. banks.
  • Non-U.S. companies may use proceeds from Iran transactions more freely, including in the United States.
  • OFAC draws a clearer line with respect to the use of Iran-related funds.

After the Iran nuclear agreement, as non-U.S. companies entered into newly-permitted business in Iran, they faced the difficult question of where they could put the money from their Iran business. U.S. law still prohibits U.S. persons (including U.S. banks) from conducting most business with Iran. Among other rules, OFAC regulations and guidance provided that “Iran-related” funds could not transit the U.S. financial system. But the guidance did not state clearly what constituted “Iran-related” funds. For that reason, foreign financial institutions (FFIs) hesitated, even feared, to process Iran-related transactions because of the risks of sending Iran-related funds into the U.S. financial system in violation of U.S. sanctions. However, a new clarification in the OFAC guidance could change all of that (and change it in the way we proposed right here in this blog[1]).


Continue Reading Those Three Little Words: OFAC’s Subtle Language Shift Could Create Sweeping Change on Iran Investment

By: Thad McBride, Reid Whitten, and Cheryl Palmeri

On May 21, the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a small but noteworthy enforcement settlement: a fine against a U.S. investment fund because the foreign subsidiary of that fund purchased Iranian securities.  It appears that OFAC’s enforcement action was not based on “facilitation” of a prohibited transaction with Iran, but rather on the U.S. parent’s failure to maintain sufficient controls to prevent its foreign subsidiary from conferring an economic benefit to Iran.  As a result, the U.S. investment manager, Genesis Asset Managers LLP (GAM US) will pay a civil penalty of $112,500.  
Continue Reading OFAC’s (Very) Long Arm: GAM Settlement May Illustrate the ITR’s Expanding Reach