Ghosted by the government?

Ghosted by the government?

TikTok once again finds itself in uncharted territory.

The ByteDance-owned company was awaiting a response from the Treasury Department’s Committee of Foreign Investment in the United States, which was reviewing TikTok’s proposed deal with Oracle and Walmart. The deal, which falls short of a sale, was TikTok’s response to President Donald Trump, who tried to shut down the company’s U.S. operations citing security concerns.

But on Tuesday, TikTok said it hadn’t received any guidance from CFIUS despite the committee setting a deadline that would require the company to either address the concerns or halt its U.S. operations by Nov. 12.

TikTok turned to a U.S. Court of Appeals for relief, asking for a review of CFIUS’s actions thus far. But some legal experts say that despite what the court decides, the government will likely to continue to meticulously review the issue and that it won’t magically vanish with the entrance of a new administration.

“All of those issues that bubbled up through CFIUS were national security implications,” said Chris Griner, chair of the national security and compliance group at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP. “So that’s the thing—it’s not going to go away.”

Aimen Mir, partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, formerly worked for CFIUS and twice saw what happens when administrations change. “There’s not a substantial difference,” he said. “There’s relative continuity in CFIUS.”

I spoke with Wall Street analysts who expect TikTok to emerge relatively unscathed once all is said and done. They expect the court to allow TikTok to continue its U.S. operations, possibly until President-elect Joe Biden takes over. Meanwhile, the Trump administration likely has put the issue on the back burner, they said. After all, Trump’s camp is currently preoccupied with challenging the results of the presidential election.

“Biden’s [administration] is going to be a lot softer when it comes to China,” said Dan Ives, analyst at investment banking firm Wedbush Securities. “That’s why TikTok is just going to continue to delay this.”

Mark Shmulik, analyst at brokerage firm AB Bernstein, agrees that TikTok may fare better with the Biden administration, and so it will keep arguing that it doesn’t need to be fully separated from ByteDance to address any security concerns. “They’ll do everything they can to keep it one company or retain ownership,” he said.

Whatever happens, most agree that TikTok’s saga with the U.S. government is one for the history books. And once Biden is sworn into office, the public nature of these dealings may be history as well.

Danielle Abril
[email protected]


In September, McDonald’s reported the best month it’s had in a decade; in this episode of Fortune’s Reinvent podcast, host Beth Kowitt speaks with CEO Chris Kempczinski about how McDonald’s finds itself in a surprisingly good spot in the pandemic, thanks to the premium customers are now placing on speed, efficiency, drive-thru, and delivery. Listen to the episode here.

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