The US government has taken legal action to block Aon’s takeover of Willis Towers Watson, threatening a $ 30 billion deal intended to create the largest insurance broker in the world.
The Justice Department said in a complaint Wednesday that the combination “would eliminate substantial direct competition and likely lead to higher prices and less innovation, hurting American businesses and their customers, employees and retirees.”
Along with Marsh McLennan, Aon and Willis form a trio that “dominate the competition for insurance brokerage for the largest companies in the United States, which are almost all clients of at least one of them,” said declared the DoJ.
The Big Three have features that smaller brokers can’t replicate, such as global service, better data and analytics, and a “separate selling approach” for risk managers at larger companies buying insurance, the company said. DoJ. In the area of health services, they were able to design tailor-made products for large multinational customers, he added.
The combination “would turn the Big Three into the Big Two,” and the united Aon-Willis group “would use that leverage against American companies,” according to the complaint.
Company shares fell late in the afternoon in New York, with Aon down 3% and Willis down 7%.
The global acquisition faces regulatory investigations in a number of jurisdictions, including the United States and Europe.
In commercial insurance brokerage, Aon and Willis have a combined share of at least 40% in certain critical US insurance markets such as property damage, liability and financial risk, the DoJ said.
The complaint cites a senior broker at Aon who allegedly told colleagues the company was “more powerful than we think and will have more weight when [the] The Willis deal is closed. . . We operate in an oligopoly that not everyone understands.
“Today’s action demonstrates the Department of Justice’s commitment to ending harmful consolidation and preserving competition that directly and indirectly benefits Americans across the country,” said Merrick Garland, Attorney General of United States, in a press release.
The deal’s expected completion date has already moved from the first half of 2021 to the third quarter, with regulatory processes dragging on.
Last month, Aon and Willis agreed to offload each other $ 3.6 billion value of assets, including Willis Re, to compete with broker Gallagher, in an attempt to appease European competition regulators.
Aon said the deal resolves issues raised by the European Commission “and is intended to address certain issues raised by regulators in certain other jurisdictions.”
Aon also agreed earlier this month to sell its US retirement business to New York-based Aquiline Capital Partners and its Aon Retiree Health Exchange operation to Alight.
The DoJ said in the complaint that the proposed divestitures were not enough to allay its concerns. In the areas of brokerage of real estate, financial and damage risks for large American corporate clients and of health benefits, the remedies proposed by the groups “would not come close to fully maintaining the competition that would otherwise be lost as a result of the proposed merger ”.
Aon and Willis issued a joint statement in response saying that the DoJ’s action “reflects a lack of understanding of our business, the customers we serve and the markets in which we operate.”
Both companies “operate in broad competitive areas of the economy and our proposed combination will accelerate innovation on behalf of clients,” they said. The Covid-19 pandemic “underscores the need to tackle.. Systemic risks, including cyberthreats, climate change and the growing health and wealth gap that our combined society will be better able to address” .
And they added, “We continue to make significant progress with other regulators around the world and remain fully committed to the benefits of our combination. “