The DOJ is investigating Visa’s $5.3 billion bid for Plaid on antitrust grounds

It’s not just big tech that’s getting the antitrust treatment from the Department of Justice.

Late Monday afternoon, the Department of Justice tipped its hand that it was investigating Visa’s proposed $5.3 billion acquisition of the venture-backed Plaid, which allows applications to connect with a users’ bank account.

It’s a tool that powers a good chunk of new fintech offerings, and the Justice Department has apparently spent the past year looking into how the deal would affect the broader market for new financial services coming from startups.

The revelation that the DOJ was taking a closer look at the Plaid acquisition came from a petition filed in the U.S. Court for the District of Massachusetts to compel Bain, the consulting firm that worked on Visa’s bid for Plaid, to comply with the agency’s civil investigative demand (CID).

The DOJ is alleging that Bain has withheld documents demanded by asserting that it had some privilege over the documents — effectively stalling the DOJ’s investigation.

“American consumers rely on the Antitrust Division to investigate mergers promptly and thoroughly,” said Assistant Attorney for the Antitrust Division Makan Delrahim, in a statement. “Collecting relevant third-party documents and data is essential to the division’s ability to analyze these transactions. Too often, third parties seek to flout these requirements, hoping the division will lose interest and focus its enforcement efforts elsewhere.”

DOJ first asked Bain in June for documents related to Visa’s pricing strategy and competition against other debit card networks. The feds intended to use that information to analyze the effects of Visa’s attempted acquisition on the broader financial services market. Bain refused to produce the documents by claiming that the information was privileged.

Visa’s bid for Plaid isn’t the only big fintech acquisition that is in the DOJ’s sights, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Federal regulators are also looking at MasterCard’s $1 billion bid for the fintech startup Finicity, and Intuit’s $7 billion pitch to acquire the credit advisory and lending marketplace, Credit Karma.

“The division’s petition against Bain is aimed at securing relevant documents and making clear that the division will hold third parties to the deadlines and specifications in the CIDs we issue,” Delrahim said. “Third parties, like Bain, must comply fully and expeditiously with our civil investigative demands and provide the documents and data we need to discharge our duties and serve the American people.”

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