Ever since letters from the Justice Department arrived at four large private equity firms asking questions about potentially anticompetitive behavior, the buyout business has been in a panic. Private equity executives may appear unruffled on the outside, but they are scrambling to hire lawyers as they assess what such an investigation might bring.
Of course there is no collusion, many of these executives say, contending that the top firms compete bitterly against one another. They concede that the government might find e-mail messages from some junior executives at rival firms joking about the possibility of collusion, but that it does not happen in practice.
They are probably right. Collusion doesn’t happen in private equity — at least not overtly, the latest DealBook column suggests. It’s much more subtle than that.