The Federal Trade Commission will end the year with a bang, requiring divestitures to approve three pending mergers, including Fidelity National Financial Inc.'s $2.9 billion purchase of Lender Processing Services Inc.
The agency also put conditions on a $1.4 billion funeral home merger that triggered concerns from Washington's Jewish community, and forced supermarket chain Albertson's to sell a pair of stores in Texas.
The FTC in a 3 to 1 vote approved Fidelity’s purchase of Lender Processing Services Inc. on Tuesday , but required the mortgage servicer to divest databases used by abstractors, title insurers and others to determine the title status of property in nine Oregon counties.
“The proposed acquisition will eliminate one of only a few underwriters available in each relevant market,” the FTC argued. “We believe the public interest is best served by remedying the competitive concerns.”
Commissioner Joshua Wright dissented, writing that “the evidence is insufficient” to show the merger would lessen competition. The FTC must “do more than point to a reduction in the number of firms to generate inferences of likely competitive harm,” he wrote.
Fidelity was represented by Aidan Synnott, a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Lender Processing tapped Peter Barbur of Cravath, Swaine & Moore.
The FTC this week also required the nation’s two largest funeral and cemetery services providers to sell 53 funeral homes and 38 cemeteries to resolve the agency’s concerns about their merger.
Service Corp. International owns and operates about 1,450 funeral-services locations and 375 cemeteries. On May 29, it struck a deal to buy Stewart Enterprises Inc., which has 217 funeral homes and 141 cemeteries. The FTC and attorneys general from eight states investigated the merger for potential competitive harm.
In November, hundreds of members of the Jewish community rallied on the steps of the FTC to protest the merger, concerned that it would mean the end of a deal struck by a Stewart-owned funeral home in Silver Spring, Md., Hines Rinaldi, to provide low-cost Jewish funerals in the Washington area.
However, the FTC did not require the merged company to divest Hines Rinaldi. Instead, SCI will sell another suburban Maryland funeral home, Edward Sagel Funeral Direction Inc. in Rockville.
SCI was represented by Shearman & Sterling partner Jessica Delbaum, and Stewart turned to Mark Cunningham of Jones Walker.
On Dec. 23, the FTC required the parent company of Albertson’s, AB Acquisition LLC, to sell two stores in Texas to win approval of its acquisition of United Supermarkets LLC. Albertson’s was represented by Michael Swartz, a partner at Schulte Roth & Zabel.