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Lawmakers want to freeze big mergers during the coronavirus pandemic

Crafted by Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Pandemic Anti-Monopoly Act would ice M&A transactions involving large companies.

Lawmakers want to freeze big mergers during the coronavirus pandemic
[Photos: Ståle Grut/NRKbeta/Flickr; Flickr user Gage Skidmore; Samson/Unsplash]

Two of the loudest progressive voices on Capitol Hill are drafting a proposal to nix major mergers and acquisitions during the COVID-19 pandemic, NBC News reported.

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Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York on Tuesday plan to announce the “Pandemic Anti-Monopoly Act,” which would place a moratorium on M&A transactions involving “large companies”—including businesses with more than $100 million in revenue, financial firms with over $100 million in market capitalization, and private equity firms and hedge funds.

Businesses that have exclusive patents on pandemic-necessitated products, such as personal protective equipment, would also fall under the regulations.

According to NBC News, Warren and Ocasio-Cortez cited concerns that corporate raiders are gearing up to pillage masses of firms in debt or default due to the pandemic, with the healthcare industry among the ports of entry. The legislators also referred to Big Tech titans and Rite Aid, which have been looking to drive deals during the crisis, and other “large companies and private equity vultures [circling] for a chance to gobble up” vulnerable firms, as Warren told NBC News.

The proposal represents a push from progressive lawmakers to prevent big businesses from using the economic upheaval to bag smaller businesses at lower price tags, further speeding the monopolization of the U.S.—which had already begun with the consolidation of hospitals, airlines, and telecommunications pre-pandemic. Monopolization is widely acknowledged to harm consumers, as controlling companies can jack up their rates and fees unchecked.

The moratorium would last until the Federal Trade Commission “determines that small businesses, workers, and consumers are no longer under severe financial distress,” reported NBC News, which reviewed a summary of the proposal.

The bill, which Warren and Ocasio-Cortez intend to introduce after Congress returns from recess, faces an uphill battle in a Republican-led Senate and White House. But regardless, it serves to elevate progressive issues leading into the November election as likely Democratic nominee Joe Biden challenges incumbent Donald Trump for the presidency.

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