A federal judge on Friday said he wants to hear in court from witnesses who object to the Justice Department’s decision last year to approve CVS Health Corp.’s nearly $70 billion acquisition of Aetna Inc.—a highly unusual move that threatens to shake up the already-consummated deal.
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington, D.C., is reviewing a department settlement last fall that allowed the merger after the companies agreed to sell off assets related to Medicare drug coverage.
“This is a matter of great consequence to a lot of people,” Judge Leon said during a brief court hearing. Health care “is a high priority issue for tens of millions of families,” he added. The judge, a George W. Bush appointee, last December said he was concerned the department hadn’t adequately addressed broader potential competitive harms raised by the merger.
At the time, he didn’t halt CVS’s
integration of the Aetna assets but made clear he wanted to spend additional time considering the settlement. CVS had volunteered to Judge Leon that it would keep parts of its Aetna operations separate until he did so.
A federal law called the Tunney Act requires the government to have proposed merger settlements approved by a federal court, which determines whether the deal is in the public interest.
An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.
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