A few weeks ago, the Justice Department cleared Whirlpool’s $1.7 billion acquisition of Maytag even though the new entity would have a dominating share of the marketplace, controlling about three-quarters of the market for some home appliances.
The department justified its decision by a combination of evidence and law. That included confidential commercial information that the department says it cannot make public; a very broad definition of the marketplace to include foreign companies, some of which have yet to make a bigger push in the United States; and an expansive reading of the economic efficiency defense for permitting such deals.
The decision demoralized the career ranks of the antitrust division at the Justice Department, officials there have said. And it left private antitrust practitioners in Washington wondering whether, in light of the decision and the flurry of corporate dealers, there are could really be any mergers that this administration would challenge.
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