Lawmakers Press GAO to Examine Foreign Acquisitions Panel

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By Casey Wooten

Sept. 15 — Lawmakers called on the Government Accountability Office to examine a multi-agency board that reviews national security implications of deals involving foreign companies, as congressional reactions to Bayer AG's proposed acquisition of Monsanto Co. continued into its second day.

The Sept. 15 letter, signed by a bipartisan group of 16 lawmakers, requested the GAO determine whether the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has kept pace with what they said was the growing size and scope of merger and acquisition deals in strategically important sectors of the U.S. economy.

“As we prepare for the upcoming presidential transition, now is an opportune time for GAO to review what has worked well, and where CFIUS authorities may need to be expanded, especially given the rise in state-owned enterprises and state-controlled enterprises from China and Russia, among other designated countries,” the letter said.

The letter comes a day after German chemical giant Bayer announced that Monsanto, a U.S. agribusiness company, had accepted its $66 billion takeover bid. Other high-profile deals in the agribusiness space are also in the works, including a merger between DuPont Co. and Dow Chemical Co. and the proposed takeover of Syngenta AG by China National Chemical Corp. .

“There have not been substantial structural updates to CFIUS composition or authority since its inception, despite a rapidly changing foreign investment climate, the rise of technology and information warfare, and new state-owned or controlled companies that are structured as independent entities but are largely directed by foreign governments,” Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) said in a statement announcing the letter.

Grassley Hearing

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who was not a signatory to the letter, has also pressed CFIUS to expand its scope.

In July, Grassley introduced legislation that would permanently add the Agriculture Department to the CFIUS review panel, which is headed by the Treasury Department. The USDA participated in the panel's review of the Syngenta deal with China National Chemical Corp., but is not typically included (See previous story, 07/15/16).

Grassley has also scheduled a Sept. 20 hearing in which top executives from Syngenta, Monsanto, Dow and other major agribusiness companies will testify on consolidation in the sector (See previous story, 09/15/16).

To contact the reporter on this story: Casey Wooten in Washington at cwooten@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at hrothman@bna.com

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