Bank, ATM Mergers Facing Tougher Antitrust Scrutiny

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Acquisition-minded automated teller machine networks can no longer expect a free ride from the government when their merger proposals come up for antitrust review, a top Justice Department official said Wednesday.

"We are not convinced that ATM networks are natural monopolies," said Robert E. Litan deputy assistant attorney general for regulatory policy.

"It is very possible that they can achieve the same economies of scale without going to fillscale mergers," Mr. Litan added in a talk before antitrust lawyers.

Although ATM network mergers have always received a green light from Justice's antitrust section in the past, Mr. Litan said Clinton administration appointees are rethinking the existing policy from a different perspective.

"We are not taking a doctrinally favorable view of such mergers," he said.

After his talk, Mr. Litan said his office had not necessarily decided to reject mergers between two networks. But he warned that they would carry a significant burden of proof

"I wouldn't assume the merger is going to pass," he said. "Typically, you are talking about two parties who are already very dominant players in a market. …