The Justice Department’s antitrust chief, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, said the department is going to significantly reduce the review time of proposed mergers, according to a report by Brent Kendall from the Wall Street Journal.
According to data compiled by law firm Dechert LLP, the average duration of significant U.S. merger investigations has been about 10 months in recent years.
A lot can change in 10 months, and in the housing industry, a long merger process actually recently caused two companies to up and abandon their plans to merge.
In August, Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group and Virginia Community Bank announced they were scrapping their merger plans after spending more than a year in review limbo. The two companies mutually agreed to part ways citing an “unclear” timeline as the primary reason behind end to their engagement.
During a speech at Georgetown University, Delrahim told the audience, “I agree that it [the long review process] is a problem."
Currently any merger valued at more than $337 million must undergo a review from the Justice Department. Most mergers do not raise any questions and are cleared in 30 days of paperwork being submitted, according to the WSJ.
If however the deal requires further review, the government makes a “second request” for information, and once a merger comes under this scrutiny, it can take a year or more to get clearance.
Delrahim said the new goal for the Justice Department is to have mergers reviewed and ready to go no longer than six months after receiving all of the required information for review.
According to WSJ, there will be some exceptions to that rule because some companies want to give the government more time to review, but in general he wants to limit the review process to 6 months or less.
“If the goal of the business community is a shorter review…we share that goal,” Delrahim said.
As the merger and acquisition market heats up in the housing realm, Delrahim's promised changes could smooth the process and prevent another Atlantic Bay/Virginia Community Bank fiasco.