We’ve seen this movie before. Conservatives, eager to bend the curve on federal outlays, are preparing to use the only leverage they have (their votes) while Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer is talking about “House Republican extremists” causing a government shutdown. In most people’s eyes, Republicans have “lost” every shutdown fight since 1995. So why are conservatives back at it again?

Beyond their preference for a smaller government, conservatives are not alone in seeing runaway spending as a dire threat and will admit that their own party shares the blame. Our political system is structurally ill-equipped to turn off spending once it begins. A new estimate that the deficit will double to $2 trillion this year and Fitch Ratings’ recent downgrade of government credit are the most recent reminders that the problem is real. Efforts to rein in the deficit date back at least to the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings agreement in 1985 and include proposed Constitutional amendments, the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990 (PAYGO), the Line Item Veto Act of 1996, the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, a “sustainable growth rate” for Medicare reimbursements, George W. Bush’s plan to make Social Security sustainable, the 2010 Simpson-Bowles Commission, the 2011 ‘Supercommittee,’ sequestration, the discretionary spending caps in the Budget Control Act of 2011, revenue-producing tax increases, and growth-generating tax cuts.

None of it worked and the government is $32 trillion in debt. Congress rarely makes tough decisions without an action-forcing mechanism and conservatives want to be that mechanism. The House’s two conservative caucuses, the Freedom Caucus and the larger Republican Study Committee have identified similar priorities. Most broadly, they do not want the Covid-era surge in spending to serve as the baseline for future spending. The FY 2023 omnibus, which was called a “monstrosity” by Speaker Kevin McCarthy, passed the House with almost no GOP support in the very last days of the Democrats’ majority. Conservatives want to return to pre-Covid levels or lower. With $115 billion in rescissions, House appropriators have offered budgetary authority at pre-pandemic (FY 2022) levels, but conservatives say this is a gimmick that won’t reduce actual outlays. On this point, the Heritage Foundation says, ‘This represents an unprecedented expansion of rescissions as a budgetary tool to add spending within appropriations caps.’ Many conservatives also see the President’s emergency supplemental request as an end-run around the debt-limit agreement and have a longstanding position that supplementals should be offset.

Continue Reading What Conservatives Want From the Spending Spat

Last week, Ethiopia hosted the 2nd regional African Forum on Business and Human Rights. This year’s Forum focused on local perspectives and solutions to implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), including in the context of operationalising the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Participants included a range of stakeholders including business enterprises and associations, governments, civil society, Indigenous Peoples groups, labour organisations, international and regional organizations and national human rights institutions. Dialogue touched on critical issues including the intersection between environmental and social impacts and the importance of developing and implementing business and human rights (BHR) frameworks that are appropriate for Africa.

In this post, we distil several considerations for businesses operating in Africa:

  1. Stakeholders are committed to establishing BHR frameworks tailored to Africa

An underlying theme of the Forum — “For Africa, From Africa” — was the implementation of the UNGPs through African perspectives. Participants discussed the extra-territorial reach of the EU’s proposed Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), through which the EU seeks to play a critical role in global standard setting on human rights due diligence. There was a clear recognition that the CSDDD and a plethora of other EU ESG laws are likely to apply directly or indirectly to businesses and significantly impact many businesses in the region. The EU is currently piloting projects in several African states to develop frameworks to assist states and businesses in preparing for CSDDD implementation and mitigate the risk of the law negatively impacting value chains. Despite this, there was some criticism regarding a perceived limited engagement with stakeholders in the Global South in the CSDDD drafting process and the potential risks and implications that could flow from that, including for example, a concern that costs of meeting due diligence standards could ultimately be pushed down to small-holding farmers and SMEs within the value chain.

Continue Reading 2023 African Forum on Business and Human Rights: What do companies need to know?

On September 6, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), the Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, issued a white paper about the oversight and legislative role of Congress related to the deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) in areas under the HELP Committee’s jurisdiction, including health and life sciences.  In the white paper, Senator Cassidy disfavors a one-size-fits-all approach to the regulation of AI and instead calls for a flexible approach that leverages existing frameworks depending on the particular context of use of AI.  “[O]nly if our current frameworks are unable to accommodate . . . AI, should Congress look to create new ones or modernize existing ones.”  The Senator seeks public feedback on the white paper by September 22, 2023.  Health care and life sciences stakeholders should consider providing comments. 

This blog outlines five key takeaways from the white paper from a health care and life sciences perspective. Note that beyond health and life sciences issues, the white paper also addresses considerations for other areas, such as use of AI in educational settings and labor/employment implications created by use of AI.

5 Key Takeaways for AI in Health Care and Life Sciences

The white paper – entitled “Exploring Congress’ Framework for the Future of AI: The Oversight and Legislative Role of Congress Over the Integration of Artificial Intelligence in Health, Education, and Labor” – describes the “enormous good” that AI in health care presents, such as “the potential to help create new cures, improve care, and reduce administrative burdens and overall health care spending.”  At the same time, Senator Cassidy notes that AI presents risks that legal frameworks should seek to minimize.  Five key takeaways from the white paper include:

Continue Reading Framework for the Future of AI: Senator Cassidy Issues White Paper, Seeks Public Feedback

On September 6, 2023, U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, published a white paper addressing artificial intelligence (AI) and its potential benefits and risks in the workplace, as well as in the health care  context, which we discuss here.

The whitepaper notes that employers are increasingly using AI to create efficiencies in employment processes such as recruiting, interviewing and hiring, managing, and promoting, with benefits such as the ability to make better employment decisions, enhance productivity, help businesses attract, hire, and retain employees from a range of backgrounds, and even enhance health and safety in the workplace. But the use of AI in the workplace can also have negative impacts when designed or used inappropriately, resulting in employment discrimination, diminished privacy, and job displacement. Despite these challenges, regulation of AI at the federal level is in “infant stages.” The paper requests stakeholders to provide feedback with insights on the advantages and drawbacks of AI in the workplace, to assist lawmakers in determining how to regulate AI and ensure it is responsibly deployed. Comments can be submitted to HELPGOP_AIComments@help.senate.gov by Friday, September 22.

On 11 July 2023 the National Security Act 2023 (the Act) received royal assent and became law. The Act addresses trade secret misappropriation in the context of industrial espionage by a foreign government, making the unauthorised conduct of obtaining, copying, recording or retaining a trade secret, or disclosing or providing access to a trade secret, under certain circumstances, a criminal offence. The maximum penalty is 14 years imprisonment and/or a fine (section 2 of the Act).

The trade secrets provision is part of a broader regime introduced by the UK government to address national security threats such as espionage, sabotage and foreign interference. 

One of the conditions that has to be met in relation to the person’s conduct is the “foreign power condition”. The foreign power condition is defined in section 31(1) of the Act as:

(a)the conduct in question, or a course of conduct of which it forms part, is carried out for or on behalf of a foreign power, and

(b)the person knows, or having regard to other matters known to them ought reasonably to know, that to be the case.

In order for section 31(1) to be triggered it is for example sufficient if the conduct is under direction or control of the foreign power or even just carried out with the financial or otherwise assistance provided by a foreign power for that purpose.

It will be interesting to see how the foreign power condition will be applied in practice, in particular where governments have extensive control and ownership over corporations.

Continue Reading Trade secrets misappropriation: a new criminal offence in the UK

Following our recent overview of key topics to watch in the National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”) for Fiscal Year (“FY”) 2024, available here, we continue our coverage with a “deep dive” into NDAA provisions related to the People’s Republic of China (“China” or “PRC”) in each of the House and Senate bills.  DoD’s focus on strengthening U.S. deterrence and competitive positioning vis-à-vis China features prominently in the 2022 National Defense Strategy (“NDS”) and in recent national security discourse.  This focus is shared by the Select Committee on Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party (“Select Committee”), led by Chairman Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Ranking Member Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL). 

It is no surprise, then, that House and Senate versions of the NDAA include hundreds of provisions—leveraging all elements of national power—intended to address what the NDS brands as China’s “pacing” challenge, including many grounded in Select Committee policy recommendations.  Because the NDAA is viewed as “must-pass” legislation, it has served in past years as a vehicle through which other bills not directly related to DoD are enacted in law.  In one respect, this year is no different—the Senate version of the NDAA incorporates both the Department of State and Intelligence 2024 Authorization bills, each of which includes provisions related to China. 

To get a flavor of the approach to China in this year’s NDAA, look no further than the “Ending China’s Developing Nation Status Act” in Section 1399L of the Senate bill, which would require U.S. opposition to granting China “developing nation” status in treaties under negotiation and by international organizations of which the U.S. and China are members, such as the World Trade Organization.  Classification as a “developing nation” affords China access to preferential loans and other economic benefits intended to increase trading opportunities, notwithstanding its current status as an upper-middle income country (as determined by the World Bank), and the world’s second largest economy, trailing only the U.S.  Not to be outdone, Section 155 of the House bill contains a provision mandating expedited deployment of advanced radars to track high-altitude balloons and other potential threats to the U.S., in direct response to the incident earlier this year in which a Chinese balloon flew across the U.S. before being shot down by the Air Force.

Given these provisions, and many more (some we discuss below), this year’s NDAA strikes us as different.  It incorporates many more China-related provisions and many of these would impose greater obligations on government contractors to limit their interactions with the PRC and entities affiliated with the PRC Government.  Whether the laundry list of China-related provisions in the current NDAA survive, and in what form, will be determined by the conference process currently underway.  But these provisions have the potential to impose significant near-term burdens on contractors—requiring them to assess their obligations and make adjustments to ensure compliance.  Indeed, these provisions may be far more disruptive than requirements imposed by prior year NDAA China provisions that contractors have navigated by reassessing supply chains and increasing due diligence.  All government contractors and suppliers to government contractors with any connection to China would be well advised to monitor how the NDAA conference approaches resolution of this legislation over the coming months.

Continue Reading Not to Be Outpaced: NDAA Presents Measures Addressing China

On 26 June 2023, the International Sustainability Standards Board (“ISSB”) published its inaugural International Financial Reporting Standards Sustainability Disclosure Standards (the “ISSB Standards”) (read our previous blog post on this here).  In August 2023, the UK Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) published Primary Market Bulletin 45, confirming its intentions to update its climate-related disclosures for listed companies under the Listing Rules (see LR 9.8.6 R (8) and LR 14.3.27 R) to reference UK-endorsed ISSB Standards.

The UK government previously signalled its support for the ISSB Standards in Greening Finance: A Roadmap to Sustainable Investing, and, more recently, its 2023 Green Finance Strategy, noting that the ISSB Standards will augment corporate reporting and improve the transparency of issuers’ activities, thereby helping investors make greener capital allocation decisions.  Subject to the completion of the UK government’s endorsement of the ISSB Standards by the summer of 2024, the UK FCA will aim to finalise its policy position by the end of 2024, with a view to bringing new requirements into force for accounting periods beginning on or after 1 January 2025.  This means that the first corporate reporting cycle will begin from 2026.

Within Primary Market Bulletin 45, the FCA has also confirmed that it will consult on its proposals for the publication of climate transition plans by listed companies, building on the work of the UK Transition Plan Taskforce (“TPT”), which was commissioned by the UK government in 2022. In November 2022, the TPT published its draft Disclosure Framework and Implementation Guidance.  It is expected to publish its final disclosure framework for transition plans in October 2023.

In order to ready listed companies to disclose against the ISSB Standards, the FCA has helpfully outlined key steps they can now take, most notably encouraging them to:

  1. Continue to improve their reporting in line with existing climate-related disclosure rules (referencing the TCFD Recommendations and accompanying guidance);
  2. Engage early with the new ISSB Standards, the associated guidance and TPT Disclosure Framework and Guidance (once published in October 2023); in order to build familiarity and develop an understanding of the key disclosure requirements; and
  3. Voluntarily “supplement their existing reporting with reporting aligned with both the ISSB Standards and TPT Framework, ahead of potential future requirements”, in order to identify any data gaps and opportunities to improve their internal reporting frameworks and processes.

August 28, 2023

Latin America, Public Policy

Executive Summary:

  • The new fiscal framework introduced by President Lula da Silva in March 2023 was approved by the Brazilian National Congress, the first major legislative victory for the administration.
  • Congress made adjustments to the text in order to reduce the framework’s main vulnerability: its over reliance on revenue increase.
  • As a next step, the administration will likely continue to push its revenue-increase agenda to sustain the new framework while congressional leadership might opt for a debate on spending cuts, including a potential reform of the federal government payroll cost.


On Tuesday, August 22nd, the House of Deputies of the Brazilian National Congress held a final vote on President Lula da Silva’s proposed new fiscal framework for the country (discussed in this blog post). The bill was approved with 379 votes in favor and 64 against, a demonstration of the political strength of the Speaker of the House, an ally of President Lula.

The new fiscal framework is part of an economic policy focused on three main goals: fiscal stability to reduce inflationary pressures and allow the Central Bank to continue to reduce the benchmark interest rate (SELIC), tax revenue increase to sustain the new framework, and the approval of a major tax reform to simplify the Brazilian tax system on consumption (discussed in this blog post).

The approval on Tuesday is the first major legislative victory of the administration, that has seen more successes than losses in its initial months (discussed in this blog post).

Continue Reading Brazil’s New Fiscal Framework Approved by Congress

Update on the Digital Asset Industry

Despite reduced enthusiasm in the trading markets over the past couple of years, technological innovation and advancement from all corners of the crypto[1] space has continued to thrive—including layer 2 scaling solutions for the Ethereum and Bitcoin blockchains, improvements to crypto mining equipment, novel applications for non-fungible tokens (NFTs), decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols, and decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), just to name a few.[2] 

As we discussed previously, while open source innovation is a tenet of the crypto industry and the underlying blockchain technology that empowers it, companies involved in this technology should consider securing intellectual property rights for their innovations.  This could include obtaining patents for inventions that complement or are adjacent to open decentralized public ledgers such as Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Patenting Activity for Cryptoassets and Other Blockchain Technology

As the graphs below indicate, patenting activity for cryptoassets and other blockchain-related innovations experienced a year-over-year increase for several years, though activity has tapered more recently.

The diagram below indicates that major payment processors (including Mastercard, VISA, and Alipay), banks (Bank of American and Capital One), and various retailers and technology conglomerates are among the top applicants for patent filings in this space.

Continue Reading Patenting for Blockchain and Crypto Tech

Earlier this month the Biden Administration released its long-anticipated Executive Order on Addressing United States Investments in Certain National Security Technologies and Products in Countries of Concern (“EO”), which imposes (1) prohibitions on certain outbound investments in the semiconductors and microelectronics, quantum information technologies, and artificial intelligence sectors, and (2) mandatory notification requirements for a broader set of transactions in those same sectors, in each case focused on China.  The EO marks the first time that the United States, or any other major Western democratic economy, has sought to regulate and control outbound capital flows and other investments for national security reasons.

The EO will also impact ongoing efforts in Congress to enact outbound investment screening legislation—which the Senate added to its version of the FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but was not included in the House-passed version—as the House-Senate conference committee negotiations continue late into the fall.

In this client alert, members of our Public Policy and CFIUS practice groups further analyze the EO and its impact on legislative efforts to restrict outbound investments.

[Read Full Article]