Increased Congressional Attention on Tech Companies

Thursday, May 16, 2024
02:00 PM - 03:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time
01:00 PM - 02:00 PM Central Daylight Time
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM Pacific Daylight Time

This webinar will discuss the increased investigations/interest in artificial intelligence (AI), electric vehicles, green technology, and investments into or from technology companies with China ties. We will provide practical tips on responding to a congressional letter or subpoena.

Key Takeaways

What Is a Congressional Investigation?

While congressional authority may at times be questioned when a company, tech startup, or executive is served with a congressional request or subpoena, the answer to the question “Are they allowed to ask for this?” is unequivocally “Yes.”

US Congress’s power to investigate is implied in Article I of the Constitution, and the US Supreme Court has affirmed Congress’s authority to investigate, hold hearings, and demand documents and testimony.

It is important for companies to seek out counsel when they receive such an inquiry to ensure that they are fully aware of any legal risks, including those collateral to the congressional investigative process—including criminal, civil, and administrative enforcement.

With Democrats controlling the executive branch and the US Senate and Republicans controlling the US House of Representatives, there have been deep divisions in the US government over issues impacting the technology industry.

Congress is spending less time legislating and more time investigating. Many of the investigations are aimed at specific companies operating in the technology space, with a recent trend of those companies being called out by name in the title of the congressional hearings.

Trends in Congressional Attention on Tech Industry

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Data Security and Privacy
  • US-China Competition
    • US investment in Chinese technology companies
    • Electric vehicles and battery technology
    • Biotechnology and biomanufacturing
    • Human rights violations

Looking Ahead

Congress will remain focused on AI, employment and workplace-related issues, financial services products, consumer privacy, data, and other issues related to how companies use AI and the products offered to consumers. Companies that have operations, customers, or suppliers that involve any of the above categories should be prepared for the possibility of a direct congressional inquiry or congressional investigations.

How to Respond to a Congressional Investigation

There are practical considerations that should be considered when responding to a congressional investigation, falling into three categories: cooperation, coordination, and preparation. While the initial reaction to a congressional investigation may be to fight—or even stonewall a response—there are legal, political, and reputational consequences to be considered. 

CLE credit: CLE credit in CA, IL, NY, PA, TX, VA, and WA is currently pending approval; CT, FL, and NJ (via reciprocity).