The August 2018 enactment of the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA) came after more than two years of debate over the appropriate scope of jurisdiction for the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). Much has already been written about FIRRMA and its potentially ambitious reach, as well as about the interest by certain parties, including members of Congress, to keep CFIUS away from some transactions. The result was a law that amended a number of provisions defining CFIUS jurisdiction, both expanding and narrowing key parts of the Committee’s reach. The pilot program is focused on certain specific types of transactions, without regard to the country of the acquiring entity, that CFIUS can review under FIRRMA, including transactions involving “Nuclear Electric Power Generation.”
The US House of Representatives and Senate recently passed the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018 (FIRRMA) as part of the reconciled conference report for the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The president signed the bill on August 13 and new legislation will take effect on a rolling basis. Although several broad based changes will affect all industries, the nuclear industry will be relieved that the final bill addresses the concerns the industry raised at the outset when the original bill created challenges for US companies’ ability to compete in international trade. However, the industry still needs to monitor the anticipated regulatory implementation as the US Department of Treasury drafts new regulations. Other agencies, including the US departments of Commerce (DOC) and Energy (DOE) will implement their policy and regulatory changes to address FIRRMA. Morgan Lewis discussed the potential steps nuclear companies could take to be ready for any changes resulting from FIRRMA in a previous Up & Atom post.
At the recent NEI Nuclear Fuel Supply Forum, Morgan Lewis partner Giovanna M. Cinelli highlighted important changes to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) transaction review process being considered by Congress that are likely to affect the Energy industry in general and the nuclear industry in particular. Giovanna is the leader of the Morgan Lewis International Trade, National Security & Economic Sanctions practice and has been practicing in that area of law for more than 25 years. Giovanna counsels clients in the defense, aerospace, and technology sectors on a broad range of issues affecting national security and export controls, including complex export compliance matters, audits, cross-border due diligence (including CFIUS), and export enforcement, both classified and unclassified.
CFIUS is an inter-agency committee authorized to review cross-border transactions that could result in ownership, control, or (in some instances) influence of a US business by a foreign person, in order to determine the effect of such transactions on the national security of the United States. In her presentation, Giovanna described some of the challenges parties have encountered with the CFIUS review process in light of the government’s recent focus on the national security implications of cross-border investments, including: a greater volume of requests for additional information; an increase in the number of days needed to complete a pre-filing review; and an increase in the number of filings that require a 75 calendar day review period.
The Atomic Energy Act retains an outdated restriction that prohibits foreign ownership, control or domination (FOCD) of commercial reactor licenses. Foreign companies have been able to make substantial investments in US commercial reactor assets, but because of the current restriction, they are effectively required to partner with a US company that exercises “control” over the assets.