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Regulatory rollercoaster: Six key developments you need to know

What legislative shifts do you need to watch in the coming months? We highlight some notable regulatory developments in North America, from GameStop’s fallout to ESG at the SEC.

The US has updated its ban on investments in certain Chinese military companies. The Treasury Department announced (January 26) that it was postponing the application of the directive’s restrictions on firms with names similar to those that have been blacklisted. The Biden Administration said most investments in firms “whose name closely matches, but does not exactly match, the name of a Communist Chinese military company” would be allowed until May 27, 2021.
A regulatory freeze imposed by President Biden could affect regulations focused on combating money laundering and terrorist financing, according to a Wall Street Journal report (January 28). The freeze pauses amendments to anti-money-laundering rules proposed by the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and the Federal Reserve Board.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said on January 29 that it will investigate why certain online trading platforms blocked users from purchasing highly volatile stocks and if illegal market manipulation spurred the recent surge in stocks such as GameStop. The recent market volatility is likely to expedite a regulatory review of the ever-larger role played by non-bank firms in the financial markets, according to regulatory experts.

In its ongoing search for Chinese involvement in US tech companies, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS), is examining investments that are months or even years old, according to a January 31 Wall Street Journal report. CFIUS has reportedly set up a unit of about two dozen people tasked with finding old investment deals that involve sensitive technologies and could pose a threat to national security. The group is said to be focused on venture-capital investments, even small-dollar deals, where the money can be linked to China.
In a sign of the growing importance of environmental, social and governance factors in investing, the SEC announced on February 1 that it has created a new position focused on those issues and appointed Satyam Khanna, a former senior legal counsel to former SEC Commissioner Robert Jackson, to the role.

On February 2, the Federal Trade Commission published its annual revised thresholds for the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act (HSR Act). These will take effect as of March 4, 2021. The HSR Act, among other things, requires merging parties to notify federal antitrust authorities if certain monetary thresholds are met. In late January, the agency announced new thresholds for Section 8 of the Clayton Act, which governs interlocking directorates. For only the second time in history, the thresholds will be lower than they were the preceding year.