Federal Judge reviewing CVS-Aetna $69 billion merger

By Brent KendallHealth CareDow Jones Newswires

CVS to buy Aetna for $69B

Federated Investors Chief Equity Strategist Phil Orlando on CVS' deal to buy health insurer Aetna.

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.

Continue Reading Below

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.

TickerSecurityLastChange%Chg
CVSCVS HEALTH CORPORATION52.63+0.09+0.17%
AETAETNA INC.212.7+0.70+0.33%

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.

More From FOXBusiness.com...

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.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX BUSINESS APP

CVS closed the Aetna deal in November, and the combined company reported its first earnings in February.

Write to Brent Kendall at brent.kendall@wsj.com