On September 29, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a package of three antitrust bills (H.R. 3843) by a vote of 242-184. The package includes: (1) the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act; (2) the Foreign Merger Subsidy Disclosure Act; and (3) the State Antitrust Enforcement Venue Act.
On 30 June 2022, the Council of the EU (the “Council”) and the European Parliament (the “Parliament”) reached a much awaited agreement on the proposal of the European Commission (the “Commission”) for the Regulation on foreign subsidies distorting the internal market (the “FSR”) (see our alert on the proposal). This political agreement swiftly concludes the trilogue discussions initiated in the beginning of May this year, after the Council (see our blog post) and the Parliament (see our blog post) each adopted their own positions. The agreement has been approved by the Permanent Representatives Committee (“COREPER”) of the Council on 13 July and the Committee on International Trade of the European Parliament on 14 July.
The FSR grants substantial new powers to the Commission and “will help close the regulatory gap whereby subsidies granted by non-EU governments currently go largely unchecked”, according to remarks from Executive Vice-President of the Commission, Margrethe Vestager. It will be deeply transformative for M&A and public procurement in the EU.
The agreement on the FSR did not lead to any major changes in the proposal made by the Commission. The most notable points of discussion between the Parliament and Council and the outcome of this agreement are:
- The thresholds above which companies are obliged to inform the Commission about their foreign subsidies remain unchanged compared to the Commission’s proposal;
- The time period in which the Commission has to investigate foreign subsidies in large public procurement has been reduced. In the same way, the retroactive application of the FSR has been limited to foreign subsidies granted in the five years prior to the application of the regulation;
- The Commission will issue guidelines on the existence of a distortion, the balancing test and its power to request notification of non-notifiable transactions, at the latest three years after the entry into force of the FSR; and
- A commitment to a multilateral approach to foreign subsidies above the FSR and the possibility for the Commission to engage in a dialogue with third countries has been included.
On 4 May 2022, the Council of the EU (the “Council”) formally adopted its position on the proposal of the European Commission (the “Commission”) for a Regulation on foreign subsidies distorting the internal market (the “Foreign Subsidies Regulation”) (see our alert on the proposal). On the same day, the European Parliament (the “Parliament”) also adopted its position on the Foreign Subsidies Regulation (see our blog post). The Council’s adoption confirms the Commission’s initial proposal of the regulation while seeking to limit the Commission’s power to investigate foreign subsidies.
The three most important things for you to know about the recent amendments to the Foreign Subsidies Regulation:
- The thresholds above which companies are obliged to inform the Commission about their foreign subsidies have been increased, reducing the scope of the new rules to a narrower set of acquisitions, mergers and public procurements. In addition, foreign subsidies of less than EUR 5 million would not be subject to notification and foreign subsidies of less than EUR 200,000 would escape any scrutiny.
- The time period in which the Commission has to investigate foreign subsidies in large public procurements has been reduced. Furthermore, the “retroactive” application of the Foreign Subsidy Regulation is limited to foreign subsidies granted in the five years prior to the application of the regulation.
- The application of some concepts (e.g., the power to request prior notification) will be subject to further guidance by the Commission.
On 28 April 2022, the Subsidy Control Bill (the “Bill”) received Royal Assent, becoming the Subsidy Control Act 2022 (the “Act”). The Act lays the basic framework for the new UK-wide subsidy control regime, which is now expected to come into force in Autumn 2022. Although the Act primarily addresses UK public authorities and their legal obligations relating to the awarding of domestic subsidies, the new regime will be of particular interest to companies wishing to benefit from the more flexible post-Brexit subsidy regime moving forward.
Continue Reading UK Subsidy Control Bill granted Royal Assent
On 4 May 2022, the European Parliament (the “Parliament”) adopted its position on the proposal of the European Commission (the “Commission”) for a Regulation on foreign subsidies distorting the internal market (the “Foreign Subsidies Regulation”) (see our alert on the proposal). It confirms the Commission’s powers to investigate and remedy the potential negative effects of foreign subsidies. It further approves a number of amendments adopted by the committee on international trade “to make the tool more effective and improve legal certainty”, according to the Committee’s press release.
Continue Reading The European Parliament endorses the EU Commission’s proposal on the Foreign Subsidies Regulation
On 13-14 July, Covington’s Peter Camesasca and Sophie Bertin participated in panels discussing developments in Foreign Direct Investment (“FDI”) and Competition enforcement and compliance at the annual Competition Law Asia-Pacific Conference.
Foreign Direct Investment Regimes
On the first day of the conference, Covington partner Peter Camesasca moderated a group of diverse panellists on recent…