WASHINGTON—The Justice Department on Wednesday filed an antitrust lawsuit challenging insurance broker Aon PLC’s proposed $35 billion acquisition of rival Willis Towers Watson PLC, alleging the tie-up would lead to higher prices and reduced innovation for U.S. businesses, employers and unions that rely on their services.
The department, which filed the case in a Washington federal court, said the merger would eliminate competition in several different U.S. product markets, including brokering services for property, casualty and liability insurance, as well as health benefits for large corporate customers.
The lawsuit, coming after an investigation of more than a year, marks the Justice Department’s first major antitrust action during the Biden administration, which is poised to take an aggressive stance against mergers in industries that already have few competitors.
President Biden’s full antitrust-enforcement team is still taking shape, but indications so far are that he wants his nominees to challenge potentially anticompetitive business practices by powerful companies and hold the line against the formation of new mega-firms with an unchecked ability to impose prices and terms that hurt consumers.
“American companies and consumers rely on competition between Aon and Willis Towers Watson to lower prices for crucial services, such as health and retirement benefits consulting,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said. “Allowing Aon and Willis Towers Watson to merge would reduce that vital competition and leave American customers with fewer choices, higher prices and lower quality services.”