Aon turns to Latham antitrust group for $30 bln DOJ merger battle

Aon logo on the building in Sydney, Australia. REUTERS / Loren Elliott

  • Latham & Watkins is one of the firms that advised Aon on its insurance mega-deal with Willis Towers Watson
  • The government says the deal will reduce competition and charge higher prices

(Reuters) – Insurance broker Aon plc hires a team of antitrust partners at Latham & Watkins to defend its proposed $ 30 billion acquisition of Willis Towers Watson against a Justice Department lawsuit.

Six Latham partners – E. Marcellus Williamson, Daniel Wall, Ian Conner, Lawrence Buterman, Michael Egge, and Marguerite Sullivan – filed charges on Friday in federal court in Washington, DC.

Latham was one of three law firms advising Aon on its deal with Willis, which would bring together the second and third largest of the “Big Three” insurance brokers worldwide. In the lawsuit filed on Wednesday, the Justice Department alleged that the acquisition, announced in March 2020, could restrict competition and lead to higher prices.

No attorney had appeared for Willis in the DC litigation by Friday afternoon. Willis was represented on the 2020 transaction by attorneys from Weil, Gotshal & Manges, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Matheson.

Aon representatives declined to comment; Willis Towers Watson did not respond to requests for comment.

The Latham team that prevailed against the DOJ has decades of experience in antitrust law.

Wall, who began his legal career in the Justice Department’s antitrust division in the 1980s, is one of the lawyers defending Apple on allegations that it forced consumers to overpay for iPhone software applications.

Buterman led the federal government’s case against Apple over fixing prices for e-books, which resulted in a conditional settlement of $ 450 million in 2014. Egge, a former co-chair of Latham’s Global Antitrust and Competition Practice, has served as Global Competition Counsel for The Coca-Cola company.

Of the six, Conner is the newest member of Latham’s partnership. During the Trump administration, he headed the US Federal Trade Commission’s competition bureau for four years. Conner’s department initiated the agency’s lawsuit against Facebook, accusing the social media platform of using a “buy-or-bury” strategy to win over rivals and keep smaller competitors at bay.

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Reporting by David Thomas

David Thomas

David Thomas reports on the legal business including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based in Chicago. He can be reached at d.thomas@thomsonreuters.com and on Twitter @ DaveThomas5150.

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