Shannon Reaves of the National Security/CFIUS/Compliance Capability Shares His Experiences in the Legal Industry and at Stroock
Shannon Reaves is a member of our National Security/CFIUS/Compliance capability in our Washington, D.C. office. He joined us in 2013 from a major international law firm where he also focused on national security, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) and compliance issues.
Q. What is the primary focus of your practice?
A. Consistent with the United States’ open policy for foreign direct investment (FDI), the Obama Administration has aggressively courted FDI. My practice focuses on helping foreign investors navigate specific regulatory processes related to such investments, mainly in the U.S. defense industry or other sensitive areas, including aerospace, communications, information systems, manufacturing and technology. I guide clients through the CFIUS process. CFIUS is an interagency committee that reviews the national security implications of foreign acquisitions of U.S. businesses, including foreign transactions that result in new foreign control of U.S. subsidiaries.
A significant part of my practice also involves negotiating agreements with the U.S. Government (e.g., Department of Defense) to mitigate foreign ownership, control or influence (“FOCI”) for purposes of continuing or obtaining facility security clearances, as well as counseling clients respecting the everyday maintenance of those mitigation agreements. Additionally, I provide counsel relating to various compliance issues (e.g., export controls).
Although I have taken on numerous assignments in energy, product liability and litigation over the course of my career, National Security/CFIUS/Compliance continues to be my primary focus and the work I enjoy most.
Q. What is the most challenging aspect of your profession?
A. I frequently engage with multiple regulatory agencies during a transaction that is, first and foremost, propelled forward by other deal considerations, not the least of which is the parties’ mutual desire to get the transaction done quickly. As a result, I counsel clients with the goal of ensuring that the regulatory requirements attached to FDI (CFIUS, FOCI, export controls) are satisfied in an efficient manner and time constraints do not obstruct the overall plan for a deal.
The everyday challenge is advance planning to avoid regulatory delays. It is important for clients to realize that attention to U.S. regulations can save time and money. Inadequate planning can create regulatory delays that jeopardize the success of a transaction, and inadequate due diligence can miss regulatory problems that may carry successor liability and/or present significant compliance costs. To position any transaction (commonplace or complex) for success, foreign investors should be prepared to navigate the complex transactional and regulatory landscape of direct investment in the United States.
On the other hand, these challenges can be a part of the appeal. Since clients come to us for some of their more difficult cases, the CFIUS and FOCI mitigation issues we confront can be novel and exciting, requiring teamwork to produce creative solutions that work for all parties.
Q. What mentor influences your work?
A. Chris Griner, who heads our practice group and manages our D.C. office, has been an invaluable mentor to me during the course of my career. I have been working with him since my first days as an associate at a major international law firm. Having the chance to learn from Chris’ skill set, and to observe his interaction with clients and unlimited knowledge of the inner workings of our government, has made me a better lawyer. When you have the opportunity to work with someone who is widely acknowledged to be the top figure in the field, it is a constant and valuable learning process—and every day is a chance to be at the vanguard.
Q. What jobs did you have before becoming a lawyer?
A. I first started working during high school and continued during the interim between my graduating from college and beginning law school. So, I’ve had an opportunity to collect an array of job titles! I will list the first few that come to mind and let you guess where they fall chronologically: Bank teller, research assistant (anthropology), deli worker, research assistant (biology), volunteer English teacher in the Amazon basin, freelance editor, gas station attendant. There was also the time I spent a month on a farm in Peru babysitting a donkey, an eagle, two dogs and some guinea pigs. It didn’t end well for the eagle. Long story.
Q. What advice would you give to an incoming first year associate?
A. Carry a notepad and pen with you at all times (especially when on your way to another lawyer’s office). That rule is so basic that most probably won’t feel it bears repeating but, as far as I’m concerned, it is the first rule of being a first year associate. Work hard and carry a notepad, and things will work out for you.