What owners, operators and investors need to know before accepting funds under the DPA
There has been an expansion of regulations related to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in both the United States and abroad. Current economic and geopolitical tensions are driving further expansion of FDI in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Whether by intent or coincidence, the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA) regulations that took effect February 13, 2020, included provisions that expanded the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) and FIRRMA based upon the invocation of the Defense Production Act (DPA) – such as with President Biden’s recent Executive Order evoking the DPA to help alleviate the U.S. shortage of baby formula.
As background, the U.S. regulation of foreign investment in the U.S. began in 1975 with the creation of CFIUS. The 2007 Foreign Investment and National Security Act refined CFIUS and broadened the definition of national security. Historically, CFIUS was limited to technology, industries and infrastructure directly involving national security. It was also a voluntary filing. Foreign investors began structuring investments to avoid national security reviews. As a result, FIRRMA, a CFIUS reform act, was signed into law in August 2018. FIRRMA’s regulations took effect in February 2020.
It is not surprising that there are national security implications to U.S. food production and supply, particularly based upon various shortages in the near past and projections of further shortages in the future. What is surprising is that the 2020 FIRRMA regulations provided for the application of CFIUS to food production (and medical supplies) based upon Executive Orders that bring such under the DPA.
The Impact of Presidential DPA Executive Orders
The 2020 FIRMMA regulations included an exhaustive list of “critical infrastructure” that fall within CFIUS’s jurisdiction. Appendix A to the regulations details “Covered Investment Critical Infrastructure and Functions Related to Covered Investment Critical Infrastructure” and includes the following language:
“manufacture any industrial resource other than commercially available off-the-shelf items …. or operate any industrial resource that is a facility, in each case, that has been funded, in whole or in part, by […] (a) Defense Production Act of 1950 Title III program …..”
Title III of the DPA “allows the President to provide economic incentives to secure domestic industrial capabilities essential to meet national defense and homeland security requirements.” This was arguably invoked by President Trump’s COVID-19 related DPA Executive Orders regarding medical supplies (such as PPEs, tests and ventilators, etc.) and now President Biden’s Executive Order related to baby formula (and other food production).
Based on the intent of FIRRMA to close gaps in prior CFIUS coverage, the FIRRMA definition of “covered transactions” includes the following language:
“(d) Any other transaction, transfer, agreement, or arrangement, the structure of which is designed or intended to evade or circumvent the application of section 721.”
Taken together, the foregoing provision potentially gives CFIUS jurisdiction to review non-U.S. investments in U.S. companies covered by DPA Executive Orders that are outside of traditional M&A structures. This means that even non-controlling foreign investments in U.S. companies (such as food or medical producers) who receive DPA funding are subject to CFIUS review. More significantly, such U.S. companies can be subject to CFIUS review for a period of 60 months following the receipt of any DPA funding.
As a result of DPA-related FDI implications, owners, operators, and investors should carefully assess the implications of accepting funding under the DPA and the resulting restrictions on non-U.S. investors in businesses and industries not historically within the jurisdiction of CFIUS.
© 2022 Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLPNational Law Review, Volume XII, Number 140