Information exchange in the framework of a merger constitutes an important issue where the demands of the course of trade need to be balanced with the limitations imposed by competition law. Companies aim at completing the merger as soon as possible. However, competition law in most European jurisdictions requires the merger to be suspended until authorization is granted. Prior to the authorization, the parties to the merger remain competitors, and exchanging information between them is a walk on very thin ice.
Competition law considers that the exchange of information renders a market artificially transparent and may restrict competition. In that sense, the exchange of information during the negotiation of a merger may fall under the scope of Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union or the corresponding legal provision in national law.
On the other hand, the exchange of information between merging companies is a crucial part of the merger itself. It is thus logical that, after an agreement to merge has been reached and before the authorization to execute the merger has been granted, the exchange of information might be considered in certain circumstances as a violation of the suspension obligation.
Therefore, legal concerns may arise both (I) prior to the merger agreement, when the exchange of information may be considered part of an anticompetitive practice and, (II) after a merger agreement has been reached, when the exchange of information may constitute an indication of the execution of the merger prior to its authorization, also known as gun-jumping.