FTC postpones administrative hearing on ICE-Black Knight merger 

The hearing was rescheduled for September to allow a federal court to rule on injunction first

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has postponed its administrative hearing on Intercontinental Exchange‘s (ICE’s) planned acquisition of Black Knight to allow a federal court to rule on its request for a preliminary injunction in the case.

The FTC’s administrative hearing will be held on September 25, according to a commission order on June 27. The date was initially scheduled for July 12. With the hearing’s postponement, all related pre-hearing deadlines are extended by 75 days. 

ICE initially announced the merger with its rival, mortgage software firm Black Knight, in May 2022. The FTC then sued ICE to block the acquisition in March 2023.

The FTC alleges that a merger between the two largest providers of home mortgage loan origination systems and other key lender software tools will drive up costs, reduce innovation and reduce lenders’ options for the tools used to generate and service mortgages. 

One month later, the FTC opened a new front in the fight against the planned acquisition.

In April 2023, the agency petitioned a California federal court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction (PI) that prevents ICE from going forward with the deal to buy Black Knight. The goal was to give the commission time to pursue in-house litigation against the merger.

“Preliminary relief is warranted and necessary,” a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco in April said. 

“Should the Commission rule, after the full administrative proceeding, that the Acquisition is unlawful, reestablishing the status quo would be difficult, if not impossible, if the Acquisition has already occurred in the absence of preliminary relief.”

The federal preliminary injunction action hearing is set to begin on July 24.

In an effort to quell antitrust concerns regarding the merger, ICE and Black Knight amended the terms of the proposed deal to reduce Black Knight’s valuation to $11.8 billion — about 11% lower than its valuation when the agreement was announced last year

Black Knight announced it will sell its loan origination system, Empower, to a subsidiary of Canada’s Constellation Software Inc. in March, prior to the FTC’s suit against ICE. A company spokesperson for Black Knight said it entered into an agreement provided the deal with ICE goes through.

The ICE-Black Knight transaction is still pending regulatory approval, and ICE expects to close in the second half of this year, the company reiterated in its first quarter earnings call. ICE declined to comment.

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