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FTC looks to revamp review process of mergers

Article

The Federal Trade Commission has proposed getting more information earlier to determine if there are competition issues. Regulators have applied more scrutiny to healthcare deals.

The Federal Trade Commission says it’s looking to get more information ahead of proposed mergers and acquisitions so regulators can make better decisions.

Lina Khan, chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, says regulators need to get more information to review mergers for competition issues. (Photo: FTC)

Lina Khan, chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, says regulators need to get more information to review mergers for competition issues. (Photo: FTC)

The FTC said Tuesday it’s looking to revamp the forms companies must fill out when pursuing deals and seeking regulatory approval. The FTC says it’s acting in consultation with the U.S. Justice Department and aiming to comply with Congress.

Under the proposal, the FTC says it’s seeking details about the rationale of the deals and details about investments and corporate relationships. The commission is also calling for more information about previous acquisitions and the entities involved, such as private equity groups.

The FTC’s proposal is slated to appear in the Federal Register this week and the commission says it will gather public comment for 60 days.

FTC officials note that the federal government’s notification forms regarding proposed mergers haven’t been modified in 45 years.

Lina Khan, chairwoman of the FTC, said on Twitter that the notification process needs to be updated to reflect the volume and complexity of mergers and acquisitions.

In a joint statement, Khan and fellow commissioners said the proposed changes are designed “to fill key gaps that our staff most routinely encounter, such as inadequate information about deal rationale or the details of how a particular investment vehicle is structured.”

The information currently collected is “insufficient for our teams to determine, in the initial 30 days, whether a proposed deal may violate the antitrust laws,” the commissioners said.

The commission also notes that getting more comprehensive information earlier will enable regulators to more efficiently review proposed mergers, especially at times of high volume for deals.

The FTC has been applying more scrutiny to hospital and healthcare mergers, particularly those involving organizations in competing markets. Federal regulators have opposed some recent hospital deals, arguing they will lead to higher prices for consumers and reduced services for the community. Some deals have been scuttled due to FTC opposition.

Federal regulators have also taken issue with some efforts at the state level to review and approve deals. The FTC has argued state oversight shouldn’t be used to skirt federal antitrust regulations.

At the same time, health systems and hospitals have taken issue with the FTC’s actions. Hospital advocacy groups have spoken out against the FTC for moving to block LCMC Health’s acquisition of three hospitals from HCA Healthcare.

The FTC said an improved notification process is critical in light of unreported acquisitions by some big tech firms, including Apple, Amazon, Facebook (now Meta), Google, and Microsoft, between 2010-19.

While hospital mergers dropped substantially during much of the COVID-19 pandemic, health systems are starting to pursue more deals now that they have more time for long-range planning. Analysts expect the pace of hospital mergers and acquisitions to rise in the coming months, as health systems pursue partners out of strategic opportunity or financial need.

For more information, check out the Federal Trade Commission’s FAQ on the notification proposal.


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