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Lenovo hires ex-CIA bod to push through Moto deal

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Lenovo has hired former CIA and Homeland Security legal wonks to help push through its deals to buy Motorola Mobility and IBM’s x86 server business with US regulators, according to Bloomberg.

The Chinese outfit is spending $US5 billion on the two big name acquisitions to become a top three player in both markets.

People familiar with the matter told the newswire that it has acquired the services of Steptoe & Johnson LLP to deal with the Motorola purchase and guide it through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS).

Partners Stewart Baker, who was apparently at the department for Homeland Security and Stephen Heifetz, who’s held positions at the Justice Department, Homeland Security and the CIA, will be taking a lead role.

Meanwhile, Covington & Burling LLP partners David Fagan and Mark Plotkin will be advising Lenovo in its bid to get the IBM server buy approved by the CFIUS – an influential agency which investigates the national security implications of foreign purchases of US firms.

Plotkin is well versed in this area, having represented IBM when it sold its PC division to Lenovo.

Lenovo will want to avoid the kind of negative scrutiny that scuppered proposed purchases by Chinese telecoms kit-maker Huawei for server firm 3Leaf and network infrastructure biz 3Com.

Congress has also effectively barred the firm and its neighbour ZTE from competing in the US network infrastructure market over “national security” concerns.

However, Lenovo is at an advantage – at least with the Motorola deal – in that mobile handsets are considered critical national infrastructure and are therefore less likely to attract government scrutiny.

IDC senior research manager, Melissa Chau, told The Reg that both proposed acquisitions should get the green light without any major issues.

“Lenovo is in quite a different position from Huawei in that some US government departments already use ThinkPads, so it has a proven track record of trustworthiness,” she argued.

However, Lenovo has not been always been able to avoid controversy.

Last year an Australian Financial Review story claimed that intelligence agencies in the "Five Eyes" countries of the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada have banned the use of Lenovo products since the mid-2000s after tests found serious backdoor vulnerabilities.

Lenovo couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. ®

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