The judge originally assigned to rule on the antitrust cases against both major health insurer mergers has relinquished the Anthem-Cigna case to another judge after saying he would not be able to review both cases by the end of the year.
Judge John Bates--a George W. Bush appointee who was seen as a favorable draw based on his previous ruling against antitrust regulators--will still preside over the Aetna-Humana trial, Reuters reports. It’s a decision that grants both pairs of companies their request for separate trials, and is “good news in particular” for Aetna and Humana, Leerink Partners analyst Ana Gupte says in a research note.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson will hear the Justice Department’s case against the Anthem-Cigna deal, according to Reuters. She was nominated to the bench by Barack Obama, under whose administration antitrust regulators have been increasingly willing to scuttle large acquisitions.
Both Aetna and Anthem have said through court filings that they need expedited trials in order to close their transactions on time, though the DOJ had argued that the trial date for both deals should be in February.
In particular, Anthem has said it must meet an extended deadline of April 30, “or Cigna will declare that it is terminating the merger agreement the next day.” And to meet that deadline, it says, the trial must conclude by the end of 2016 so that Anthem has time to secure state regulatory approvals.
Under Jackson, though, that may not be possible, as she indicated Friday that she may be looking at a trial date in December or January, Reuters notes.