With the help of several Washington law firms flying in to help, Delta Air Lines will become the world's largest airline carrier.
The Department of Justice closed its antitrust investigation Wednesday of Delta's acquisition of Northwest Airlines. The Washington office of O'Melveny & Myers acted as lead counsel for Northwest Airlines while the D.C. offices of Hunton & Williams represented Delta as lead regulatory counsel. K&L Gates assisted with Delta's regulatory work, and Boies Schiller & Flexner helped with the private litigation. The investigation lasted less than seven months from the airlines' announcement in April of a merger.
"We did get this done very quickly," says Timothy Muris, of counsel with O'Melveny and one of the lead lawyers on the case along with O'Melveny partner Christine Wilson. "We had just done a merger with the Justice Department that involved Northwest and we were working with the exact same staff."
Muris says the Justice Department's investigation was "exhaustive and thorough."
"There was a massive data requirement." Muris says. "We complied through the investigation and set up aggressive schedules to get evidence -- on cost savings and efficiency -- to the Antitrust Division in a timely and consistent basis."
In addition to the Justice Department's antitrust investigation, a cadre of lawyers involved with the deal have been working for antitrust clearance in international jurisdictions including the European Union, China, Canada, and Mexico. Those lawyers also successfully handled an investigation by a group of 14 state attorneys general.
"Historically, the Justice Department's antitrust division has been hostile to these mergers," Muris says. "This merger was a different type of merger because there weren't really any serious competitive problems."
A private suit was filed in federal court, in an attempt to block the merger. O'Melveny's Henry Thumann handled the case for Northwest, and Boies' Don Flexner, Jim Denvir, and Phil Korologos represented Delta. Wilson says "the case was resolved successfully," but declined to discuss any of the details of the resolution.
"There was a lot of fear back in January and February that a Northwest - Delta merger would start a wave of consolidation," Muris says. "That hasn't happened, and this merger doesn't necessarily mean other mergers will follow."