Court grants Anthem's request for speedy appeal of ruling against Cigna acquisition

A federal appeals court has scheduled the first oral argument for March 24 in Anthem's appeal of a ruling against its merger with Cigna.

Even as the two insurers prepare for their own legal fight, a federal court has granted Anthem’s request for an expedited appeal of a ruling that blocked its proposed acquisition of Cigna.

In a recent order, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit approved a motion from Anthem in which the insurer had argued a fast appeals process was necessary in order to meet the deal’s extended closing deadline of April 30.

Cigna, meanwhile, is suing Anthem in the Delaware Court of Chancery, seeking damages of more than $14 billion as well as a judgment approving its termination of the merger agreement. But Anthem fired back with a suit seeking a temporary restraining order to stop Cigna from terminating their contract, saying there is “sufficient time and a viable path forward” to complete the acquisition.

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Last week, the Delaware court granted Anthem’s motion, Cigna revealed in a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, adding that it will therefore abide by the terms of the merger agreement “until the Chancery Court further reviews the case.”

RELATED: As Anthem-Cigna trial begins, a look back at the deal's key moments

As for Anthem’s appeal of the ruling against its merger, the court has scheduled the first oral argument for March 24.

The most recent filing related to the appeal is Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s full opinion enjoining the Anthem-Cigna merger, which lays out her arguments against the deal in greater detail than the previously released order summarizing her ruling. The crux of her ruling is that the merger will substantially lessen competition in the national accounts markets in the 14 states in which Anthem is a Blue Cross Blue Shield licensee.

Both the order and opinion also highlight the “elephant in the courtroom”—the obvious rift between the companies that led Cigna to actively warn against the deal during trial. The court, Jackson wrote, “cannot properly ignore the remarkable circumstances that have unfolded both before and during the trial.”

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