WASHINGTON, D.C., September 20 /CNW/ - In reaction to public protests
surrounding recent high-profile foreign acquisitions of American assets,
Congress has added more regulation, more publicity and more political risk to
foreign investment transactions in the United States.
The new law, the Foreign Investment and National Security Act of 2007,
was signed by President Bush in July and goes into effect in October. It
expands the powers of a special U.S. government committee to investigate and
block foreign investments. The committee is called the Committee on Foreign
Investment in the United States or CFIUS.
"For twenty years CFIUS quietly, privately, and often informally,
reviewed a small percentage of foreign acquisitions of American defense
manufacturers and specialized tech companies," said George Foote, a partner in
the Washington, D.C. office of the international law firm Bracewell &
Giuliani. "The original CFIUS approach reflected the Cold War view of national
security. The new law is based on post-September 11 concepts of security that
are not tied so closely to the identity of the home country of the acquiring
company. That difference can be a game changer in cross-border deals."
In 2006, CFIUS recommended approval of the acquisition of P&O, an
international company that manages American ports, by Dubai Ports World, an
Arab-controlled company. Because of the concerns about port security after the
September 11 attacks, the acquisition quickly became a political hot potato.
The resulting outcry led Congress to add more formality and publicity to
once-informal processes at CFIUS. Congress drafted a bill that requires
certain reviews and makes full investigations more likely.
"The scope of what is important to national security has been
dramatically expanded for purposes of a CFIUS review," said Foote. "Now,
foreign investment in many more companies will require CFIUS filings and
investigations will become more common. For example, any power or pipeline
company or even a company with a major stake in the economy could be
considered a national security asset that requires domestic control, and a
foreign bid to acquire it might be blocked by the new CFIUS process."
Foote said, "CFIUS decisions will be more open and political. CFIUS could
become a political forum where many economic and political interest groups
will have a chance to weigh in on a wide range of deals. The CFIUS process
potentially is a weapon for almost any American entity that is the target of a
foreign acquirer. A demand for CFIUS review might be deployed on behalf of a
company, even a foreign company, that is competing for an American target
Foreign investors have reacted unfavorably to the new law that could lead
to restrictions on what has traditionally been -- and remains -- one of the
most open economies in the world.
"The new law could raise the cost and lower the chance for approval of
foreign acquisitions and could discourage or defeat some investments," said
Foote. "It remains to be seen whether, in practice, the national security
benefits of the new law will outweigh the new costs to corporations and the
risk of reduced foreign investment in America."
Bracewell & Giuliani LLP is a prominent international law firm. With more
than 400 lawyers in Texas, New York, Washington, DC, Connecticut, Dubai,
Kazakhstan and London, we serve clients concentrated in the energy and
financial services sectors worldwide. In 2005, former New York City Mayor
Rudolph W. Giuliani joined the firm as a senior partner. His reputation for
leadership and problem solving is a unique asset for our clients, which
include Fortune 500 companies, major financial institutions, leading private
investment funds, governmental entities and individuals. www.bgllp.com
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For further information: For Bracewell & Giuliani LLP Suzy Ginsburg,