Companies have increasingly leveraged artificial intelligence (“AI”) to facilitate decisions in the extension of credit and financial lending as well as hiring decisions.  AI tools have the potential to produce efficiencies in processes but have also recently faced scrutiny for AI-related environmental, social, and governance (“ESG”) risks.  Such risks include AI ethical issues related to the use of facial recognition technology or embedded biases in AI software that may potentially perpetuate racial inequality or have a discriminatory impact on minority communities.  ESG and diversity, equity, and inclusion (“DEI”) advocates, along with federal and state regulators, have begun to examine the potential benefit and harm of AI tools vis-à-vis such communities.  

            As federal and state authorities take stock of the use of AI, the benefits of “responsibly audited AI” has become a focal point and should be on companies’ radars.  This post defines “responsibly audited AI” as automated decision-making platforms or algorithms that companies have vetted for ESG-related risks, including but not limited to discriminatory impacts or embedded biases that might adversely impact marginalized and underrepresented communities.  By investing in responsibly audited AI, companies will be better positioned to comply with current and future laws or regulations geared toward avoiding discriminatory or biased outputs caused by AI decision-making tools.  Companies will also be better poised to achieve their DEI goals. 

Federal regulatory and legislative policy and AI decision-making tools

            There are several regulatory, policy, and legislative developments focused on the deployment of responsibly audited AI and other automated systems.  For example, as part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s recently announced Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights, the Administration has highlighted key principles companies should consider in the design, development, and deployment of AI and automated systems in order to address AI-related biases that can impinge on the rights of the general public.

Continue Reading Responsibly Audited AI and the ESG/AI Nexus

Last week the European Commission published its long-awaited proposal for a Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (“proposed Regulation”), and a Communication on an “EU Policy Framework on Biobased, Biodegradable and Compostable Plastics” (“Communication”).  The proposed Regulation is intended to replace the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive 94/62 (“Packaging Directive”) and to ensure that all packaging marketed in the EU/EEA is fully recyclable or reusable by 2030.  If adopted, the proposed Regulation’s new requirements and restrictions will have a significant impact on industry, distributors, and consumers.  The European Parliament and Council must now consider the proposed Regulation for adoption through the so-called “ordinary legislative procedure,” which will allow for the introduction of amendments and is likely to take at least 18 months.  

This blog post highlights the main changes and new requirements that the proposed Regulation would introduce, and outlines the principal recommendations of the Commission’s Communication.

Main changes introduced by the proposed Regulation

The proposed Regulation would introduce the following eight main changes:

1.         Adoption of a Regulation.  The first important change is that the EU legislation on packaging and packaging waste would take the form of a Regulation rather than a Directive.  This, together with the harmonization clause of Article 4 of the proposed Regulation and the inclusion of certain packaging items in the definition of Article 3, is intended to limit Member States’ attempts to impose additional requirements on packaging. 

2.         Ban on Certain Packaging Formats.  The proposed Regulation would also propose to ban single-use packaging formats, including single-use composite packaging (e.g., containers); single-use packaging for fresh fruits and vegetables; single-use plastic grouped packaging used to group cans, tubs, tins and pots together; single-use hotel miniature packaging (e.g., sachets around miniature bar soap); and single-use plastic and composite trays and boxes for foods and beverages in the HORECA sector (e.g., trays or boxes used to wrap hamburgers).

3.         Compostability Requirements.  The proposed Regulation would also require that particular categories of packaging (e.g., sticky labels attached to fruits and vegetables, very lightweight plastic carrier bags, and tea and coffee bags and single-serve units intended to be used and disposed of with the product) be “compostable in industrially controlled conditions in bio-waste treatment facilities.”  The proposed Regulation does not itself  define the criteria that these types of packaging must meet to be compostable.  However, its Impact Assessment states that companies may demonstrate the compostability of their packaging on the basis of existing EU harmonized standards, such as, e.g., Standard EN 13432:2000.  European authorities are also likely to take into account the compostability criteria for plastics of the Communication (see below).

The proposed Regulation would also empower the Commission to subject other packaging items to the obligation to be compostable through delegated acts if justified and appropriate due to technological and regulatory developments impacting the disposal of compostable packaging and if the packaging meets the criteria of Annex III.

Other types of packaging that are not subject to the compostability obligation mentioned above would have to be designed in a way that they can be recycled without affecting other waste streams (such as the bio-waste waste streams).  Contrary to earlier version of the proposal, the proposed Regulation does not seem to impose a general ban on compostable plastic polymers. 

4.         New Deposit and Return Schemes.  The proposed Regulation would require EU Member States to put in place deposit and return schemes for single-use plastic and metal beverage bottles of up to three liters (with the exception of wine, spirits and milk). 

In addition, the proposal would also require Member States to encourage the introduction of systems for the reuse and refill of packaging in an environmentally sound manner.

Continue Reading The Commission unveils its proposal for a Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation, and provides recommendations on Biobased, Biodegradable and Compostable Plastics

President Biden recently signed bipartisan legislation reinforcing anti-human trafficking prohibitions. The End Human Trafficking in Government Contracts Act of 2022 builds on the existing anti-human trafficking framework at Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) § 52.222-50 (Combatting Trafficking in Persons) by requiring agencies to refer contractor reports of potential human trafficking activity directly to an agency suspension and debarment official (“SDO”).  Prior to this legislation, contractors have been required to notify their contracting officer and the agency inspector general upon receiving “[a]ny credible information” that a human trafficking violation had occurred.  See FAR § 52.222-50(d)(1).  Now agencies will be required to refer these reports to their SDOs, creating additional risk for contractors that disclose potential violations. 

This legislation – which passed Congress unanimously – demonstrates the federal government’s ongoing focus on anti-human trafficking matters – a focus that has been shared across presidential administrations.  For instance, in 2015, President Obama significantly expanded the FAR’s anti-human trafficking prohibitions, and in 2019, President Trump sought to undertake a comprehensive review of the government’s anti-trafficking efforts and released a list of “best practices” to guide contractors.  President Biden now joins this ongoing, bi-partisan effort to increase government contractors’ focus on human trafficking by signing the recently-passed legislation.

Despite the federal government’s longstanding efforts to prevent human trafficking in its supply chain, many questions remain concerning how to comply with the requirements.  Below are three of the most common questions we encounter in applying the FAR’s anti-human trafficking provision:

Continue Reading New Law Increases Government Scrutiny of Contractor Compliance with Anti-Trafficking Provisions

Many employers and employment agencies have turned to artificial intelligence (“AI”) tools to assist them in making better and faster employment decisions, including in the hiring and promotion processes.  The use of AI for these purposes has been scrutinized and will now be regulated in New York City.  The New York City Department of Consumer

On 6 October 2022, the Council of the European Union adopted a Regulation on an emergency intervention to address high energy prices (the “Regulation”).  The Regulation was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 7 October. The Regulation has three main elements:

  1. A requirement to reduce electricity consumption by 5% in peak hours;
  2. A measure to return the excess revenues or profits of energy companies to the individual Member States; and
  3. The allocation of proceeds to customers to alleviate retail electricity prices and an extension to Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) of the categories of beneficiaries of a possible Member State intervention in the retail price.

The Regulation’s market intervention is exceptional (albeit in response to an extraordinary geopolitical market disruption).  It will have widespread positive and negative impacts for energy market sellers and buyers.  These circumstances may provoke a range of disputes, transaction (re)structurings or additional compliance obligations that will require expert advice and understanding of the details of the Regulation.

Reduction in electricity consumption

EU Member States will endeavour to reach an overall 10% reduction in electricity consumption by all consumers.  The benchmark against which that reduction will be measured is the average of gross electricity consumption in the corresponding months of the reference period, i.e. from 1 November to 31 March in the five preceding years, starting from 2017.  In addition, in order to reduce retail prices and improve supply security, Member States are obliged to deliver a 5% reduction of electricity consumption during peak hours, (defined as the hours of the day where day-ahead wholesale electricity prices are expected to be the highest; gross electricity consumption is expected to be the highest; or gross consumption of electricity generated from sources other than renewable sources is expected to be the highest).  These measures will apply from 1 December 2022 until 31 March 2023.

Continue Reading EU Emergency Action on Energy

May courts look beyond the face of a loan transaction to identify the “true lender”?  In a lawsuit filed by California’s financial regulator, a California state court recently answered yes, finding that a fact-intensive inquiry into the “substance” of a loan transaction was necessary to determine who the “true lender” is and declining to dismiss

Over the summer, the UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (“BEIS”) delivered the first decisions, in the form of final orders, under the National Security and Investment Act 2021 (“NSIA”).  We consider these decisions and other cases in the context of the first nine months of the UK’s new (quasi) Foreign Direct Investment (“FDI”) regime.

Key takeaways:

  • The NSIA has broad reach, and BEIS has shown willingness to exercise the powers to review transactions that can stretch beyond mergers and acquisitions, for example, to licensing agreements.
  • NSIA review involves the weighing of a number of factors relating to the target, the acquirer and the level of control being obtained.  Early decisions suggest that target’s products/services and activities are just as important a factor as the acquirer’s identity, among the cases that have engaged the attention of the Investment Security Unit (“ISU”).
  • “Behavioural” undertakings, e.g. involving implementation of security controls or granting of audit rights to regulators appear to be a continuation of trends seen in the predecessor UK ‘public interest’ regime, and similar to other EU FDI procedures.


Continue Reading UK FDI: Decision-making practice emerging under the National Security and Investment Act

On July 13, the Federal Trade Commission published a notice of proposed rulemaking regarding the Motor Vehicle Dealers Trade Regulation Rule.  The Motor Vehicle Dealers Trade Regulation Rule is aimed at combating certain unfair and deceptive trade practices by dealers and promoting pricing transparency.  Comments to the proposed rule are due on or before September 12, 2022

cav

The proposed rule:

  1. Prohibits dealers from making certain misrepresentations in the sales process, enumerated in proposed § 463.3.  The list of prohibited misrepresentations includes misrepresentations regarding the “costs or terms of purchasing, financing, or leasing a vehicle” or “any costs, limitation, benefit, or any other Material aspect of an Add-on Product or Service.”
  • Includes new disclosure requirements regarding pricing, financing and add-on products and services.  Notably, the proposed rule would obligate dealers to disclose the offering price in many advertisements and communications with consumers.
  • Prohibits charges for add-on products and services that confer no benefit to the consumer and prohibits charges for items without “Express, Informed Consent” from the consumer (which, notably, as defined, excludes any “signed or initialed document, by itself”).  The proposed rule outlines a specific process for presenting charges for add-on products and services to the consumer, which obligates the dealer to disclose and offer to close the transaction for the “Cash Price without Optional Add-Ons” and obtain confirmation in writing that the consumer has rejected that price.
  • Imposes additional record-keeping requirements on the dealer, in order to demonstrate compliance with the rule.  The record-keeping requirements apply for a period of 24 months from the date the applicable record is created.


Continue Reading FTC Proposes Motor Vehicle Dealers Trade Regulation Rule

 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.


Continue Reading The Council of the EU and the European Parliament agree on the Foreign Subsidies Regulation

This quarterly update summarizes key federal legislative and regulatory developments in the second quarter of 2022 related to artificial intelligence (“AI”), the Internet of Things, connected and automated vehicles (“CAVs”), and data privacy, and highlights a few particularly notable developments in U.S. state legislatures.  To summarize, in the second quarter of 2022, Congress and the Administration focused on addressing algorithmic bias and other AI-related risks and introduced a bipartisan federal privacy bill.

Artificial Intelligence

Federal lawmakers introduced legislation in the second quarter of 2022 aimed at addressing risks in the development and use of AI systems, in particular risks related to algorithmic bias and discrimination.  Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced the Digital Platform Commission Act of 2022 (S. 4201), which would empower a new federal agency, the Federal Digital Platform Commission, to develop regulations for online platforms that facilitate interactions between consumers, as well as between consumers and entities offering goods and services.  Regulations contemplated by the bill include requirements that algorithms used by online platforms “are fair, transparent, and without harmful, abusive, anticompetitive, or deceptive bias.”  Although this bill does not appear to have the support to be passed in this Congress, it is emblematic of the concerns in Congress that might later lead to legislation.

Additionally, the bipartisan American Data Privacy and Protection Act (H.R. 8152), introduced by a group of lawmakers led by Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ-6), would require “large data holders” (defined as covered entities and service providers with over $250 million in gross annual revenue that collect, process, or transfer the covered data of over five million individuals or the sensitive covered data of over 200,000 individuals) to conduct “algorithm impact assessments” on algorithms that “may cause potential harm to an individual.”  These assessments would be required to provide, among other information, details about the design of the algorithm and the steps the entity is taking to mitigate harms to individuals.  Separately, developers of algorithms would be required to conduct “algorithm design evaluations” that evaluate the design, structure, and inputs of the algorithm.  The American Data Privacy and Protection Act is discussed in further detail in the Data Privacy section below.

Continue Reading U.S. AI, IoT, CAV, and Data Privacy Legislative and Regulatory Update – Second Quarter 2022