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Freshfields Hires Former CFIUS Leader Mir in Washington

Feb. 28, 2019, 5:17 PMUpdated: Feb. 28, 2019, 7:50 PM

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has hired Aimen Mir, who led the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States for almost 10 years, as the head of its CFIUS practice in Washington.

Mir was deputy assistant secretary for investment security at the U.S. Department of the Treasury after serving as CFIUS staff chair beginning in 2008. The Treasury Department leads interagency CFIUS, which has the ability to review and potentially curtail transactions that it deems a national security risk.

Mir played a significant role in implementing the most recent overhauls to the foreign investment review process. He managed the disposition of the over 1,000 transactions reviewed by CFIUS during his tenure.

“With CFIUS becoming far more important than it has been, when we got the opportunity to have a CFIUS lawyer, we jumped at it,” said Peter D. Lyons, Freshfields’ U.S. managing partner.

All G7 countries have recently beefed up their foreign investment regulations, making cross-border transactions an increasingly scrutinized part of global business.

CFIUS legal practices are heating up under the Trump administration, which has intervened in several transactions involving Chinese companies. In March 2018, CFIUS blocked an attempted takeover of Qualcomm by Singapore-based Broadcom, saying the deal would threaten national security.

In August, President Trump signed the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act, a bipartisan law that greatly increased the scope of transactions that will be reviewed for potential national security risks.

“It’s the most sweeping change in 30 years,” said Mir. “It makes what was otherwise a voluntary process one that in many instances will be mandatory.”

FIRRMA gave CFIUS new powers that include reviewing foreign real estate transactions near government facilities, transactions that give foreign nationals membership on a U.S. company’s board of directors, and non-controlling investments that give foreign persons access to “critical technology.” Critics worry the new rules will chill foreign investment in the United States.

At Freshfields, Mir will be advising companies seeking to acquire or invest in U.S. businesses, companies seeking to receive investments, and non-U.S. companies with U.S. operations that may be subject to CFIUS review. Mir said he expects countries in Europe and Asia to pass laws similar to FIRRMA, making some cross-border transactions subject to multiple jurisdictions.

(Added a quote from Freshfields' managing partner in paragraph four and a quote from Mir in paragraph eight. Added a final graph about Mir's practice. )

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Russell-Kraft in New York at srussellkraft@gmail.com
To contact the editor on this story: Rebekah Mintzer in New York at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com