U.S. antitrust agencies see merger surge

WASHINGTON, Nov 8 (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission said Monday that they had been notified of more than 4,000 proposed transactions between March 2020 and September 2021, sharply higher than normal.

The agencies, which share the job of enforcing antitrust law, created an online portal to accept notifications of proposed transactions in March 2020, when the government and companies started closing offices to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Between then and Sept. 10, 2021, roughly 18 months, the portal took in filings related to more than 4,000 transaction, the agencies said in a report.

That compares with 1,637 for the 2020 fiscal year, 2,089 for fiscal 2019 and 2,111 for the 2018 fiscal year, the report said.

A tally that the FTC has on its website shows that filings started picking up in the fall of 2020, with 424 in November 2020 alone. There have been more than 300 in each of the last three months, the tally shows.

"On the current trajectory, announced transaction volume for U.S. firms is on track to be the highest in 20 years. Agency resources, however, have not kept up. Between 2010 and 2016, FTC and DOJ funding in nominal terms stagnated and, in real terms, effectively declined," FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a statement that was joined by Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter, also a Democrat.

The two Republicans on the commission, Noah Phillips and Christine Wilson, said that the FTC could be struggling with the filings partially because it is expanding enforcement priorities.

Congress is considering legislation to increase the budgets of U.S. antitrust enforcers, among a raft of other antitrust bills. read more

Reporting by Diane Bartz; editing by Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.