A federal judge on Friday said he wants to hear in court from witnesses who object to the Justice Department’s decision to allow CVS Health Corp.’s nearly $70 billion acquisition of Aetna Inc.
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U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington, D.C., is reviewing a department settlement last fall that allowed the deal after the companies agreed to sell off assets related to Medicare drug coverage.
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A federal law called the Tunney Act requires the government to file proposed merger settlements for approval by a federal court, which determines whether the deal is in the public interest.
Approval is often cursory, and judges usually don’t hold any type of court hearings. Judge Leon, however, has questioned whether the settlement did enough to protect competition in the health-care industry,
A CVS lawyer in a court hearing Friday said no judge had ever called for live witness testimony on a government merger settlement.
Judge Leon responded that he has done novel things in his courtroom before. He said he envisions a hearing sometime in May that could last about a week.
The judge heard briefly in court from the American Medical Association and other consumer and health-care groups that would like to have the opportunity to testify. Judge Leon said he would also allow the Justice Department and CVS to call their own witnesses in rebuttal if they choose.
A spokesman for CVS declined to comment. The Justice Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
CVS closed the Aetna deal in November, and the combined company reported its first earnings in February.
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