FTC Says It Is Struggling To Keep Up with Merger Filings

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is struggling to keep up with a “tidal wave” of merger filings, telling some businesses to merge at their own risk even though the agency hasn’t yet finished reviewing their deals.

The surge in filings “is straining the agency’s capacity to rigorously investigate deals ahead of the statutory deadlines,” Acting Director of the Bureau of Competition Holly Vedova wrote in a blog post Tuesday, August 3.

According to preliminary merger filing numbers reported by the FTC, regulators received more than 1,700 Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) pre-merger notices in the first six months of 2021. HSR filings are required for deals of at least US$92 million.

For comparison, regulators saw just over 2,000 HSR filings in all of 2020 (though deals noticeably slowed at the beginning of the pandemic). Still, HSR filings have hovered modestly over 2,000 annually since fiscal year 2017, according to government data.

Read More: FTC Rescinds 1995 Policy Limiting Merger Deterrence

By law, regulators have a set amount of time to review pre-merger filings before parties consummate their deals. Regulators can issue a so-called second request to halt the process and ask for more information, but after receiving those documents, they have a set period of time to review and choose whether to block the deal before parties can again move forward.

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