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September 13, 2023

Pressley Urges Greater Scrutiny of Saudi Investments in U.S. Companies

Saudi Arabia should not be able to sanitize its image by ‘sportswashing’ nor should it be able to gain sensitive data by investing in American companies.

“I hope [CFIUS] will scrutinize the Saudi Arabian government like the human rights abuser that it is.”

Video (YouTube)

WASHINGTON — Today, in a House Financial Services Committee, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) called for greater scrutiny of Saudi Arabia’s investments in U.S. companies and emphasized the Saudi government’s abysmal human rights record.

During her exchange with Treasury Department Assistant Secretary Paul Rosen, who leads activities at the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), Rep. Pressley highlighted the potential national security risks associated with Saudi Arabian investments in companies like X – formerly known as Twitter -Amazon, Walmart, Uber Technologies, and Live Nation Entertainment.

A video of Rep. Pressley’s exchange with the witness can be found here and a copy of the transcript is below.

Transcript: Rep. Ayanna Pressley Urges Greater Scrutiny of Saudi Investments in U.S. Companies

September 13, 2023

House Financial Services Committee

REP. PRESSLEY: Thank you, Mr. Rosen for joining us for this hearing. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States certainly plays an important role in our national security by sounding the alarm on foreign control of critical technologies and industries.

I want to build upon and follow up on Ranking Member Waters’s question line regarding the Committee’s review on a – or view on a country with many human rights abuses that seems to have evaded significant scrutiny. And that’s Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has a sovereign wealth fund called the Public Investment Fund, which has more than $35 billion in American companies like Amazon, Walmart, rideshare and the food delivery company Uber Technologies, as well as the major ticketing platform Live Nation Entertainment.

Now recently, the Saudi backed LIV Golf announced a merger with PGA. Mr. Rosen, I certainly do appreciate that much of the work is classified, but what can you share about the Committee on Foreign Investment’s posture towards Saudi Arabia, these investments, and reviewing the potential national security risks that are associated with them?

MR. ROSEN: Thank you, Congresswoman for the question and your focus on this issue.

As a general matter, I’d like to respond with a couple of points. One is that CFIUS was enacted not to be country specific, but to look at the specific transaction in terms of who is doing the purchasing and what we know about them.

But Congress, in addition, in its wisdom, singled out foreign government control investments to pay special attention to and to create additional requirements when it is a foreign government entity or foreign government-controlled entity doing the buying. And we look very closely at those transactions when we have jurisdiction.

And then the other point that I would make which is really essential in our analysis, which Congress requires, is what is being purchased? What are we worried about? Are we worried about U.S. persons sensitive personal data, for example? Are we worried about the transfer of technology, like critical technology? Are we worried about access to critical infrastructure or a sensitive facility? And so these are the kinds of factors that we look at in any analysis, but I think it’s important to highlight the foreign government control piece of this as well.

REP. PRESSLEY: Right, I appreciate that. I asked the question just because I didn’t think that the jurisdiction was clear and was there and really just seeking transparency. Just none of us want to want to be caught flat-footed here. So appreciate your question there.

But I do just want to double down on the fact that Saudi Arabia is an oppressive regime. And in fact, just a few weeks ago, human rights watchdogs reported the Saudi Arabia killed hundreds of Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers who tried to cross the Yemen-Saudi border between March 2022 and June 2023.

Additionally, a report by the U.S. intelligence community concluded that the Crown Prince, who oversees these investments, approved of the operation to murder Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In light of these human rights abuses, Saudi investments in U.S. companies, especially those in critical or sensitive industries, clearly warrant greater scrutiny. For example, building upon the question line of Congressman Cleaver, Saudis holds significant stake in Twitter – or whatever Elon Musk is calling it now – and Twitter is within your jurisdiction to review as a global social media giant that has sensitive personal data on Americans. It is a major communication platform for government officials, including the President and your agency, the Department of Treasury. Do you agree?

MR. ROSEN: I would agree that we have jurisdiction to review foreign investment controlling investment into U.S. business, Congresswoman.

REP. PRESSLEY: Very good. So bearing that in mind then, has the Committee on Foreign Investment reviewed any investments by Saudi Arabian companies and nationals into Twitter specifically?

MR. ROSEN: I understand your question, Congresswoman, and these issues are important. They present complex issues, and they require a specific case by case analysis. Of course, FIRMA put in place strict confidentiality requirements, and so whatever we can get into in a classified enclosed setting, I would respectfully defer to that.

REP. PRESSLEY: Fair enough. In the end, Saudi Arabia should not be able to sanitize its image by ‘sportswashing’ nor should we be able to gain sensitive data by investing in American companies. We need a review of these investments and I hope the Committee on Foreign Investment will scrutinize the Saudi Arabian government like the human rights abuser that it is.

Thank you. I yield.