In this episode of S&C’s Critical Insights, Melissa Sawyer, Global Head of S&C’s M&A Group, and Joe Matelis, a partner in S&C’s Antitrust Group, discuss how the draft merger guidelines issued by the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission may affect M&A deals.
Joe, who helped develop the 2010 horizontal merger guidelines that would be replaced by the new guidelines, notes that the new guidelines would create more uncertainty about what kinds of mergers the government is going to choose to challenge. Joe expects that the government is most likely to focus on merger activity by so-called dominant firms that have more than a 30 percent market share, even though a much broader set of concerns is raised in the new guidelines. He also expects that going forward courts may not give as much credence to the new guidelines given their break from prevailing tradition, and thus paradoxically the new guidelines may make it harder for the government to prevail in court.
Melissa points out some of the practical ways the draft guidelines might impact M&A deals. Parties would need more advance planning around potential antitrust issues, with hostile and topping bidders in particular needing to create clear plans to obtain timely clearances. She also would expect to see a shift in antitrust risk allocation provisions, including changes in reverse break fees, operating restrictions that apply between signing and closing, and “hell or highwater” clauses.
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