Dem worries Trump will interfere in merger reviews

Dem worries Trump will interfere in merger reviews

A top Democrat is hammering President Trump for discussing a planned multibillion merger during a meeting with the companies' CEOs.

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharOn The Money: Democratic candidates lay into Trump on trade | China exempts US soybeans, pork from tariff hikes | Congress set to ignore Trump's wall request in stopgap measure Overnight Energy: Harris goes after DOJ antitrust probe of automakers over emissions | Trump on energy-efficient light bulbs: 'I always look orange' | Climate change only briefly discussed in third presidential debate CNN, NY Times to host next Democratic debate in October MORE (D-Minn.) voiced her concerns over any interference by the president in the government's review of the pending $66 billion merger between the agrochemical company, Monsanto, and the pharmaceutical giant, Bayer.

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“At a meeting with the President-elect that occurred recently, the CEOs of Bayer and Monsanto discussed their $66 billion merger, which is currently being reviewed by the Justice Department,” Klobuchar said in a speech on antitrust policy at the Center for American Progress on Monday.

The lawmaker, who is the top Dem on the Senate Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee, noted that the Justice Department typically reviews mergers without White House involvement.

“After the meeting, the administration took credit for commitments the companies made to create new jobs and invest in Research and Development,” she said. “This was an uncharacteristic discussion and raises concerns that the president may want to negotiate merger settlements himself.”

Trump met with the CEOs of Bayer and Monsanto in January, before his inauguration, and reportedly asked them questions about the deal.

As president, Trump has regularly sought to take credit when companies' plans for new investments or to boost hiring.

During the campaign, he also weighed in on one of the biggest mergers awaiting regulatory approval – the deal between Time Warner and AT&T. On the trail, Trump said he would block the deal, but in office has hinted he hasn't made up his mind. He's also criticized the already completed merger between Comcast and NBCUniversal.

On Monday, Klobuchar also announced that she would introduce three new bills on mergers, which would increase scrutiny of the deals and raise merger fees for companies.

“The [merger] fee has not been adjusted since 2001. And parties involved in large deals are simply not paying their fair share,” Klobuchar said.

She said currently companies are only required to pay $280,000 for mergers over $807 million, even in cases the size of the deals are many times higher.

Klobuchar also argued that the Federal Trade Commission and DOJ “should be required to gather information about how investment fund ownership affects competition,” to beef up reviews of mergers.

“Congress needs this information to understand whether there is a problem and when investment fund ownership is anticompetitive or benign.”

Businesses believe that the Trump administration will give the green light to many mergers.

Some have chalked up Trump's criticism of the AT&T-Time Warner deal to his problems with CNN, which is owned by Time Warner.

His appointments to key agencies also suggest a lighter regulatory hand on mergers.