Hoping to reduce the time and expense involved in the merger review process, the Justice Department’s antitrust division on Friday announced changes to its five-year-old guidelines for vetting corporate transactions. Many of the changes focus on the “second request,” in which regulators, after launching a preliminary investigation into a deal’s competitive effects, extend the waiting period and ask the parties for more information. Among the new provisions is an option that allows companies to limit the scope of the documents they must produce in a second request, the Justice Department said.
Second request have become less common in recent years, according to figures published in a document accompanying Friday’s announcement. In the fiscal years 2000 and 2001, before the antitrust division took up its 2001 Merger Review Process Initiative, about 40 percent of preliminary investigations led to second requests. In 2002 and 2003, that percentage fell below 29 percent. In 2004 and 2005, it stood at 24 percent.
Merger reviews have also gotten shorter. Since the 2001 initiative was announced, the average length of time from the opening of a preliminary investigation to the early termination or closing of the investigation has fallen from about 93 days to 57 days, the Justice Department said.
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