EXON-FLORIO….Did the committee that oversees foreign acquisitions of U.S. corporations break the law by not conducting a 45-day investigation of Dubai Port’s proposed purchase of P&O? The law in question, called the Exon-Florio provision, requires a 30-day review followed, in some cases, by a more thorough 45-day investigation. For state-owned corporations, the investigation is required if the acquisition “could affect the national security of the U.S.”

So what triggers this provision? Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt, who chairs the vetting committee, had this to say:

In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Mr. Kimmitt said that…on Jan. 17 the panel members unanimously approved the transfer. “None of them objected to the deal proceeding on national security grounds,” he said.

….An objection from any member of the interagency committee would have started, as required by law, an additional 45-day review.

Is this right? The idea that the Dubai deal “could” affect national security seems pretty hard to argue with, but obviously somebody has to make that determination and Kimmitt is saying that, legally, it’s the committee itself that does it. If they unanimously decide there are no national security issues, then the 45-day investigation isn’t required.

Is that right? Any Exon-Florio experts out there who can weigh in?