On March 30, 2021, the Supreme Court heard arguments in TransUnion LLC. v. Ramirez, a case in which Respondent Ramirez brought a class action lawsuit against Petitioner TransUnion, alleging that it incorrectly placed a flag on his credit report; the flag suggested that Ramirez was on a list of potential terrorists and criminals maintained by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (the “OFAC list”) because his name was similar to two individuals whose name were on that list. After Ramirez learned he had been flagged, he requested a copy of his credit report from TransUnion. TransUnion sent him a copy of his credit report, which did not include any reference to the OFAC list, and a second mailing indicating that his name was a potential match for a name on the OFAC list. Ramirez sued on behalf of himself and a class of over 8,000 individuals who received similar mailings, alleging that TransUnion violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) by (i) incorrectly flagging him as potentially appearing on the OFAC list and (ii) sending him the information about the potential match separately from his requested credit report, which he argued was confusing because the mailing regarding the OFAC list did not include FCRA-required information about how to dispute and correct the incorrect information.
On January 19, 2021, the U.S. Department of Commerce (Commerce) issued interim final regulations (interim rules) implementing Executive Order 13873, Executive Order on Securing the Information and Communications Technology Services Supply Chain (EO), which was intended to address alleged threats against information and communications technology and services (ICTS) in the United States. The new review mechanism focuses on transactions involving any acquisition, importation, transfer, installation, dealing in, or use of ICTS that has been designed, developed, manufactured, or supplied by parties owned by, controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of “foreign adversaries.”
While the focus on the rules is not foreign investment per se, it will complement the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States’ (CFIUS) investment security review mechanisms. Indeed, the interim rules borrow several concepts and definitions from CFIUS’s recently amended regulations.
Commerce invited interested parties to submit comments on the interim rules. Parties must submit comments by March 22, 2021. Commerce will publish final regulations after considering any comments submitted.
This post provides key takeaways and a brief summary of Commerce’s new review mechanism.
On January 5, 2021, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order (EO) 13971, banning certain transactions and activities with persons who “develop or control” eight Chinese “connected software applications,”1 specifically Alipay, CamScanner, QQ Wallet, SHAREit, Tencent QQ, VMate, WeChat Pay, and WPS Office. The prohibitions will come into effect 45 days after the issuance of the order, that is, February 19.
On December 18, 2020, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR) regarding a proposal to impose on banks1 and money service businesses (MSBs) new recordkeeping, reporting, and identity verification requirements in relation to certain transactions involving convertible virtual currency (CVC) or digital assets with legal tender status (legal tender digital assets or LTDA)2 if the counterparty to the transaction does not have an account with, including a digital asset wallet hosted by, a financial institution regulated under the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) or certain foreign financial institutions not located in designated problematic jurisdictions. If adopted, the proposed rule will impose significant new burdens only on banks and MSBs involved in digital asset businesses and undercut the role of U.S. institutions in digital asset economies, including in the growing area of “decentralized finance.” The NPR proposes to exclude broker-dealers, futures commission merchants, and mutual funds, among others that are subject to the BSA from these new reporting requirements, but specifically requests the industry’s comment on whether these types of institutions should also be included within the scope of the rule.
Affected institutions will have very limited time to assess and comment on the NPR, as the comment period closes on January 4, 2021, notwithstanding two intervening federal holidays.
Lawfare recently published “Why Schrems II Might Not Be a Problem for EU-U.S. Data Transfers*,” written by Sidley Partner Alan Charles Raul. This article was adapted from a longer article on our Data Matters blog, “Schrems II Concerns Regarding U.S. National Security Surveillance Do Not Apply to Most Companies Transferring Personal Data to the U.S. Under Standard Contractual Clauses.”
(*Note that this article was published by the Lawfare Institute in cooperation with Brookings.)
The thesis articulated in the article linked here is that (1) nearly all companies relying on standard contractual clauses for data transfers to the US under the EU General Data Protection Regulation are not electronic communications service providers for purposes of FISA 702 (i.e., only companies in the business of providing communications services would be covered) and (2) data transfers from Europe to the US under SCCs may not be targeted under FISA 702 and EO 12333 because they are (i) quintessential “US person communications” because either the data exporter is a U.S. person or the data importer is a U.S. person, or more likely, both are US persons and (ii) received by a person located in the U.S. Accordingly, the concerns expressed by the EU Court of Justice in Schrems II should not be problematic for nearly all U.S. companies relying on SCCs.
Recent changes to Chinese law have broad implications on cross-border data transfer in the course of investigations conducted by non-Chinese regulators. Clients work closely with counsel to navigate potential legal landmines in any defense of an investigation involving data from China.
Just over six months ago, on March 24, 2020, the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) revised Securities Law (revised on December 28, 2019) (中华⼈民共和国证券法（2019年修订) went into effect. While the revised Securities Law affects many aspects of China’s securities law framework (including the registration of new securities for initial public offerings, disclosure requirements, and investor protection rules), a new “blocking” provision is particularly notable. Specifically, Article 177 of the revised Securities Law prohibits non-Chinese securities regulators from conducting investigations within China and prevents Chinese individuals and entities from providing information to such regulators without first receiving approval from the China Securities Regulatory Commission and/or other competent departments under the State Council.
On October 1, 2020, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published an advisory that highlights the risk of potential U.S. sanctions law violations if U.S. individuals and businesses comply with ransomware payment demands.1
Ransomware attacks use malware, often injected through phishing schemes, to encrypt a victim’s data files or programs, followed by a ransom demand by the threat actor that offers the decryption key in exchange for payment. Payment is often demanded in bitcoin, and thus third-party services are often used to make such payments. Increasingly, ransomware attacks not only lock data up but steal data from the victim and threaten to publish sensitive files belonging to victims. According to OFAC, ransomware attacks have been increasing over the last two years and are a special risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, with cybercriminals targeting not only large corporations but also small to medium enterprises, hospitals, schools, and local government agencies.2