Under Trump, DOJ will keep fighting Anthem-Cigna merger

Gavel and flag in courtroom
Anthem and Cigna are appealing a federal judge's ruling against their proposed merger. (Getty/AlexStar)

As the first oral arguments for Anthem and Cigna’s appeals case draw closer, the Department of Justice and several states have indicated they plan to fight to ensure a lower court judge’s decision to block the merger stands.

Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled against Anthem’s proposed acquisition of Cigna in February, deciding that the deal would unlawfully reduce competition in the national accounts market for employer-sponsored insurance.

Anthem then was granted an expedited appeal, but it has also had to contend with Cigna’s attempt to end the merger agreement by filing a separate suit against it. In that case, the Delaware Chancery Court temporarily blocked Cigna from ending the insurers’ contract, and Cigna has since filed a motion saying it will defer to Anthem in the appeals case. Oral arguments are scheduled to begin March 24.

In the most recent motion in the appeals case, the DOJ under the Trump administration seemed to dispel any concerns about whether it will be softer on antitrust enforcement than the agency was under the Obama administration.

“The district court’s determination that the merger likely would lessen competition reflects an application of modern antitrust principles and rests on a firm evidentiary foundation,” the motion stated, adding, “It should not be disturbed on appeal.”

The American Medical Association recently cautioned the DOJ not to engage in any “politically driven settlement negotiations” in the Anthem-Cigna case, noting that some statements from Anthem and its lawyers indicated the insurer anticipated a more merger-friendly antitrust enforcement approach from the new administration.