White House says scrapped Aon-Willis deal shows 'robust enforcement'

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WASHINGTON, July 27 (Reuters) - The White House praised the Justice Department's successful effort to stop a $30 billion deal that would have created the world's biggest insurance broker, saying the agency's work was "robust enforcement of the antitrust laws."

Aon Plc and Willis Towers Watson Plc called off their $30 billion merger on Monday, saying U.S. regulators' objections created unacceptable delay and uncertainty. The Justice Department had filed a lawsuit to stop it.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki praised the Justice Department, saying its effort was "what the president was talking about when he called for more robust enforcement of the antitrust laws."

President Joe Biden has taken more interest in antitrust than most presidents, and named one progressive antitrust expert to work in the White House and others to head the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department's Antitrust Division.

He also signed a sweeping competition executive order, urging agencies to crack down on anti-competitive practices in sectors from agriculture to pharmaceuticals and labor.

Rising prices have struck areas as diverse as lumber, labor, gasoline and fast food, a politically sensitive issue for an administration trying to engineer a recovery from the COVID recession. It has positioned its antitrust policies as one tool to contain inflation.

Psaki said that the deal would have raised prices for many American businesses that hire brokers for insurance and benefit packages. "Those higher insurance costs would ultimately have led Americans to pay more for all kinds of products and services," she said. (Reporting by Nandita Bose and Trevor Hunnicutt; writing by Diane Bartz)

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