Bayer-Monsanto Merger Needs ‘Impartial’ Review, Senators Say

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By Fawn Johnson

Nineteen Democratic senators July 21 told the Justice Department it should “conduct a thorough and impartial analysis” of Bayer AG’s proposed $66 billion merger with Monsanto Co.

The senators led by Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) wrote Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the DOJ’s antitrust division should be “independent of political influences and carefully consider the impact this merger will have on agricultural businesses, farmers, and consumers.”

The letter comes as some of the same lawmakers have told the DOJ to maintain independence from the White House in another proposed merger between AT&T Inc. and Time Warner Co. The most recent letter specifically mentioned a meeting between President Donald Trump and leaders of Bayer and Monsanto before he was sworn in. “We find it disturbing that in January, President-elect Trump met with both Bayer CEO Werner Baumann and Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant to discuss their transaction,” the letter said.

The Bayer-Monsanto merger is the third in a trio of mega-deals in the agro-chemical business, following the completed merger between Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. and Syngenta AG’s deal to merge with China National Chemical Corp. Both Dow-DuPont and Syngenta-ChemChina needed approval from multiple antitrust jurisdictions, and both merged pairs were required to divest significant parts of their businesses to clear their deals.

Even with the remedies that are supposed to retain the competitiveness of the market, the rearrangement of major players in the industry has alarmed farmers and environmental organizations. They fear that greater consolidation means farmers have fewer options and will be forced to buy from a smaller pool of industry players and absorb their higher prices.

The senators’ letter alluded to the impact on farming. “We encourage the antitrust division to work with the Department of Agriculture to evaluate the impact that this deal will have on competition in the agricultural inputs market and on farmers who work every day to feed our world,” it said.

The DOJ declined to comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Fawn Johnson in Washington at fjohnson@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bna.com

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