Obama Is Still Trying to Keep Markets Competitive

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Can an activist government do something about huge corporate mergers that reduce competition to dangerously low levels? Why yes!

Pfizer Inc. has decided to kill its planned $150 billion takeover of Allergan PLC, after the Obama administration took aim at a deal that would have moved the biggest drug company in the U.S. to Ireland to lower its taxes, according to people familiar with the matter….The companies are expected to announce the deal’s termination as early as Wednesday morning, after Pfizer’s board voted Tuesday to halt the combination and the New York-based pharmaceutical company then notified Dublin-based Allergan, the people said.

This happened after the Treasury Department unveiled new rules that would have eliminated the tax advantages of the deal. There’s also this:

The Justice Department is preparing to file a lawsuit to block a proposed merger between Halliburton Co. and Baker Hughes Inc., the most recent sign that a takeover boom is meeting resistance from U.S. regulators and antitrust enforcers….It would mark the department’s most notable flexing of its enforcement muscles since Comcast Corp. abandoned its planned acquisition of Time Warner Cable Inc. a year ago in the face of opposition by the department and the Federal Communications Commission.

These periodic interventions aren’t much, but they demonstrate what can be done even in the absence of new legislation. An administration that wants to keep markets competitive has plenty of arrows in its quiver if it chooses to use them.

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