Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has recruited a leading foreign investment transactions official from the office of the Director of National Intelligence as the firm continues to build out its deal-making capabilities stateside.
Colin Costello, acting director of the National Intelligence Council’s Investment Security Group, has joined Freshfields as a CFIUS client advisor in its Washington office. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., which reviews certain transactions involving foreign investors for national security concerns, is poised to continue to play a pivotal role in shaping the deals space.
Costello has spent roughly seven years working at the intersection of foreign direct investment, international business and national security.
He was a senior associate at PwC starting in 2011 until 2016 when he joined ODNI. He was the Intelligence Community’s primary representative to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. and developed the threat analysis methodology used by the Intelligence Community to analyze CFIUS transactions as well as other foreign investment-related regulatory filings.
He also helped form and implement the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA) of 2018, which broadened the scope of CFIUS.
Costello said he’s jumping to Freshfields because he wanted to join a firm that was trying to integrate the various regulatory processes into a single service offering. He is also attending Georgetown University Law School part-time.
“I wanted to join a firm that saw that bigger picture and was working to create that type of global service offering such that they could bring to bear resources not only in the United States, but across different countries for a deal that was going to be global in scope and Freshfields was really the firm that I saw doing that most,” he said.
Costello will work as an advisor, offering insight to clients as to how deals might trigger certain red flags under CFIUS.
He will be reuniting with a former colleague, Aimen Mir, who now heads Freshfields’ CFIUS practice in Washington. Mir, a former deputy assistant secretary for investment security at the U.S. Treasury who helped lead CFIUS efforts for nearly a decade, joined the firm in early 2019.
Positioned in the Treasury and the Intelligence Community respectively, the two areas of government that have a significant impact on transactions, the pair’s insight on how to navigate through the process CFIUS process is becoming increasingly critical for clients, Mir said, especially as the Foreign Investment Review has become an integral part of transactions over the last few years.
Over the past year Freshfields has been busy making good on its ambitions to increase its presence in the U.S.
In late 2019 a four-lawyer team from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton that included rainmaker Ethan Klingsberg, who now runs Freshfields’ U.S. M&A and corporate practice, joined the firm in New York. Freshfields also added Willkie Farr & Gallagher business and corporate litigation practice group chair Mary Eaton who now co-heads of its securities and shareholder litigation practice earlier this year.
In Washington the firm picked up former Justice Department antitrust trial lawyer Julie Elmer as well as Hogan Lovells antitrust partner Meghan Rissmiller. The firm also opened an office in Silicon Valley with a five-lawyer group from the likes of Davis Polk & Wardwell, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Sidley Austin, and Latham & Watkins.
CFIUS plays a key role in the firm’s expansion of its footprint..
“The firm sees CFIUS as a distinguishing feature in its M&A offering and that makes it all the more attractive when our foreign clients are looking to the U.S. and want somebody to guide them through, they have that capability here at the firm,” Mir said.
Countries across the globe have increased foreign investment regulations, making cross-border transactions more heavily scrutinized.
Under the Trump administration, CFIUS blocked an attempted takeover of San Diego-based Qualcomm by the Singapore-based Broadcom citing national security concerns in 2018. TikTok, the popular Chinese video sharing app, has also drawn CFIUS scrutiny over American user data.
Risk analysis and issues of national security, which have substantially expanded, will all still continue under President-elect Joe Biden. Still, Costello foresees a “return back to operating in the shadows” for CFIUS to make sure every deal is held in the strictest confidence under its provisions.
“Perhaps counterintuitively, the thing to expect is much more continuity than change from the Trump administration to the Biden administration, at least in CFIUS,” Costello said.