Cree Inc. (“Cree”), the U.S.-based LED lighting and semiconductor company, announced last month that it is terminating its agreement to sell its Wolfspeed Power & RF division (“Wolfspeed”) to Infineon Technologies AG of Germany (“Infineon”) for USD $850 million. The decision to terminate the deal came shortly after Cree announced that CFIUS raised objections to the acquisition and that the parties were working within the deal structure to mitigate CFIUS’ concerns. This outcome underscores that CFIUS risk can exist in transactions involving buyers from countries that are closely allied to the United States.
On February 2, 2017, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued Cyber-related General License (GL) 1, a general license that authorizes certain transactions with Russia’s Federal Security Service (Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti or FSB). GL 1 authorizes U.S. persons (i.e., individuals and companies) to request, receive, use, pay for or deal in licenses, permits, certifications, or notifications issued or registered by the FSB for information technology (IT) products in Russia, provided that (i) the relevant IT goods or technology are subject to the U.S. Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and are licensed or otherwise authorized by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS); and (ii) payment of fees to the FSB for such licenses and other authorization or notification does not exceed $5,000 in any calendar year. GL 1 also authorizes transactions or activities that are necessary and ordinary incident to complying with law enforcement or administrative actions or investigations involving the FSB or rules and regulations administered by the FSB.
CFIUS: Account for CFIUS risks in transactions involving non-U.S. investments in businesses with a U.S. presence
Over the past year, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an interagency committee chaired by the Department of the Treasury, has been particularly active in reviewing and, at times, intervening, in non-U.S. investments in U.S. businesses to address national security concerns. CFIUS has the authority to impose mitigation measures on a transaction before it can proceed. It may also recommend that the President block a pending transaction or order divestiture of a U.S. business in a completed transaction. Consequently, companies that have not sufficiently accounted for CFIUS risks may face significant hurdles in successfully closing a deal. With the incoming Trump administration, there is also the potential for an expanded role for CFIUS, particularly in light of campaign statements opposing certain foreign investments.
Overview of Actions Taken by the United States
On December 29, 2016, President Obama announced that he was sanctioning nine individuals and entities: the Main Intelligence Directorate (aka Glavnoe Razvedyvatel’noe Upravlenie) (GRU) and the Federal Security Service (aka Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti) (FSB), two Russian intelligence services; four individual officers of the GRU; and three companies that were stated to have provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations. In addition, two Russian individuals were sanctioned for using cyber-enabled means to cause misappropriation of funds and personal identifying information. These actions mark the first expansion of the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List to include entities and individuals under the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) cybersecurity program since it was established on April 1, 2015. The 2015 client alert can be found here.
On December 23, 2016, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued a Final Rule amending the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 560 (ITSR) to expand the scope of permissible exports/re-exports of medicine, medical devices and agricultural commodities to Iran.
The results of the U.S. presidential election are historic and unanticipated, and they will have significant economic, political, legal and social implications. As we prepare for the Trump presidency, many uncertainties remain regarding how the incoming administration will govern. President-elect Trump has stated that he will pursue vast changes in diverse regulatory sectors, including international trade, health care, and energy and the environment. These changes are likely to reshape the legal landscape in which companies must conduct their business, both in the United States and abroad.
On June 3, 2016, the U.S. Department of State, Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) and the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) issued changes to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR). The changes are part of the administration’s Export Control Reform (ECR) Initiative to update and harmonize export controls, facilitate compliance and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens.
In an extraordinary development, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) issued a new rule, effective March 24, 2016, creating a temporary general license for two entities—Zhongxing Telecommunications Equipment Corporation (“ZTE Corporation”) and ZTE Kangxun Telecommunications Ltd (“ZTE Kangxun”)—that BIS had previously added to the Entity List on March 8, 2016, for their alleged role in setting up shell companies to circumvent U.S. export controls and sanctions on Iran.