| WASHINGTON, March 9
WASHINGTON, March 9 U.S. antitrust enforcers are
dealing with a "tsunami" of high-value, complicated mergers that
have stretched their resources, the heads of the two U.S.
competition regulators told lawmakers on Wednesday.
Bill Baer, head of the Justice Department's Antitrust
Division, and Edith Ramirez, chairwoman of the Federal Trade
Commission, told a Senate panel that 2015 was exceptionally busy
with a large number of complex deals.
"There was mention of a merger wave. We kind of look at it
as a tsunami," Baer told the Senate Judiciary Committee's
antitrust subcommittee. He attributed some of the volume to
investors who jumped in once the economy improved.
"We are incredibly busy. We are asking for additional
resources," said Ramirez, who did not elaborate. Baer has asked
for an additional $16 million for a total of $180 million in
funding for the antitrust division.
But while volume was higher, the percentage of problematic
mergers was unchanged, said Baer. The FTC sued to block six
deals in the past year while the Justice Department opposed 11
in the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years.
Lawmakers expressed concerns about two pending health
insurance mergers and their possible impacts on the cost of
healthcare and drugs. Anthem Inc announced its proposed
$47 billion acquisition of Cigna Corp last July, the same
month that Aetna Inc said it planned to buy Humana Inc
for $37 billion.
The Justice Department is currently reviewing both deals.
Baer said they would be assessed both locally and nationally,
including the cost to employers and impact on markets. "These
are transformational mergers. We are going from five national
(insurers) to three."
Under questioning from Senator Charles Grassley, an Iowa
Republican, Baer said the department would consider concerns
that patients would be unable to see their preferred doctor if a
deal was approved.
Ramirez indicated that the FTC was investigating several
strategies used by brand-name drug companies to defend their
medicines, including moves to block generic companies from
obtaining needed drug samples.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, the top Democrat on the panel, pushed
for the FTC to be aggressive, saying, "We need increased
enforcement actions to stop anticompetitive actions in the
(Editing by Matthew Lewis)