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Federal Trade Commission eyes merger investigation streamlining

The Federal Trade Commission, one of two Washington, D.C., agencies overseeing company mergers, is moving aggressively to implement Presidential directives aimed at eliminating what Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen calls “wasteful, legacy regulations and processes that have outlived their usefulness.”

“The FTC will continue to pursue the right answer for consumers, but we will work hard to get there as efficiently as we can. We are focusing our resources where they will do the most good for the public,” she affirms. “Improving efficiency and productivity never stops in the private sector, government should operate no differently. I intend to keep focused on this issue, working collaboratively with career staff and agency leadership to identify and implement further streamlining and process improvements.”

Among FTC actions early in President Donald Trump’s administration, she cites:

  • New groups within the Bureaus of Competition and Consumer Protection are working to streamline demands for information in investigations to eliminate unnecessary costs to companies and individuals who receive them.
  • Bureaus are reviewing their dockets and closing older investigations, where appropriate.
  • Bureaus of Consumer Protection and Economics are working to integrate economic expertise earlier in investigations to better inform agency decisions about the consumer welfare effects of enforcement actions.

Eric Olsen, the charter chief executive officer and lone American director of LafargeHolcim Ltd., has resigned effective July 15, noting how the business, nearly two years after the Lafarge Group and Holcim Ltd. merger, “has everything it needs to successfully transform the industry and build sustainably our future world. I fully trust our teams to transform that ambition into reality.”

A late-April announcement of his resignation immediately followed disclosure of findings from an internal investigation of 2013-14 actions to secure a $680 million Syria greenfield operation that opened in 2010—one year ahead of the beginning of conflicts that have since evolved to civil war. Actions included payments by representatives of a pre-merger business, Lafarge Cement Syria, to militant group-connected intermediaries.

“Significant errors of judgment were made that contravened the acceptable code of conduct,” the LafargeHolcim Board concludes. “[A]lthough measures were instigated by local and regional management, selected members of Group management were aware of circumstances indicating that violations of Lafarge’s established standards of business conduct had taken place.”

“My decision is driven by my conviction that it will contribute to addressing strong tensions that have recently arisen around the Syria case,” Olsen states in a press release. “While I was absolutely not involved in, nor even aware of, any wrongdoing I believe my departure will contribute to bringing back serenity to a company that has been exposed for months on this case.”

LafargeHolcim has begun a search for his successor. Chairman Beat Hess will serve as interim chief executive officer after July 15. Additionally, Roland Köhler, currently executive committee member with responsibility for Europe, Australia/New Zealand and Trading, will be appointed chief operating officer.