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Judge softens stance on CVS-Aetna deal

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CVS offered measures it said would help facilitate Judge Leon’s review.

WASHINGTON—According to various published reports, a federal judge on Tuesday “softened” his previous suggestion that he would likely order CVS Health to halt its integration of Aetna.

CVS AetnaU.S. District Judge Richard Leon in recent weeks had voiced some concerns about the companies’ settlement with Justice Department antitrust enforcers that allowed the nearly $70 billion deal to move forward.

During a brief hearing in Washington, D.C., yesterday, the judge took a more lighter tone toward CVS, citing with approval a voluntary offer the company made to keep certain aspects of Aetna’s operations separate for now.

CVS has argued that halting all integration would cause irreparable harm to the company and its customers. Instead, it offered four measures it said would help facilitate Judge Leon’s review.

CVS noted that Aetna would maintain its historical control over pricing of products and services for its insurance customers, and that CVS and Aetna wouldn’t exchange competitively sensitive information for the time being.

Judge Leon said CVS’s proposal was constructive, and he suggested that an outside monitor be brought in to ensure the company lives up to those commitments.

“Our focus is on transforming the consumer health experience,” a CVS spokesman said. “The actions we’ve highlighted for the court make a hold-separate order unnecessary.”

Both CVS and the Justice Department were due to file more court papers on Thursday.


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