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Aon says DOJ suit shows ‘lack of understanding’

Aon HQ

Aon PLC late Wednesday criticized the U.S. Department of Justice’s suit seeking to stop its purchase of rival Willis Towers Watson PLC and claimed the deal would create more choice in the market.

“We disagree with the U.S. Department of Justice’s action, which reflects a lack of understanding of our business, the clients we serve and the marketplaces in which we operate,” a joint statement from Aon and Willis said.

Earlier in the day, the Department filed suit against Aon, saying the proposed acquisition would reduce competition.

According to the suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the merger of Aon and Willis  “would eliminate substantial head-to-head competition and likely lead to higher prices and less innovation, harming American businesses and their customers, employees, and retirees.”

If the merger goes ahead, only Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc., which is currently the world’s largest brokerage, would be able to compete with the combined company, the suit says.

In the statement, Aon and Willis said the deal would “accelerate innovation” and create “more choice in an already dynamic and competitive marketplace.”

“We continue to make material progress with other regulators around the world and remain fully committed to the benefits of our combination,” the statement said.

The deal was first announced in March 2020 and was expected to close in the first half of 2021, however, late last year regulators in Europe and the U.S. raised antitrust concerns over the merger.

To allay those concerns, Aon last month agreed to sell much of Willis’ reinsurance business and various businesses in Europe and the U.S. to Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. It later agreed to sell various German pension and investment consulting businesses to London-based Lane Clark & Peacok LLP, its U.S. retirement business to Aquiline Capital Partners LLC and its retiree health exchange to Alight Solutions.