The corporate deal-making boom last year was one for the record books. The harder part: Winning the blessing of emboldened antitrust officials in the Obama administration’s last year.
U.S. enforcers have turned increasingly aggressive in their mission to protect competition between companies — the latest example being the Justice Department’s expected move to block Halliburton Co.’s takeover of rival oil-services company Baker Hughes Inc. Antitrust officials are also in court this week to block a merger between Staples Inc. and Office Depot Inc.
Top enforcers are rethinking how they assess consumer harm in response to increasing consolidation across industries as new research finds fault in previous attempts to fix problematic mergers. The change in thinking comes as dealmakers pursue tie-ups that would leave industries including health insurance, airlines, chemicals and beer even more consolidated with just a handful or less of major players.