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Edwards - Merger Controversy

Edwards - Merger Controversy

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Published by: antitrusthall on Feb 12, 2011
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Corporate Raiders andJunk-Car Dealers: Economics andPolitics
of
the Merger Controversy
by
James
Rolph
Edwards
Depamnent of Humanities and Social SciencesNorthern Monta~ ollegeFueled by almost frantic efforts to adjust and adapt in the face of intense inter-national competition, American industry undertook an immense corporate resmc-turing in the 1980s, partly in the form of corporate mergers and takeovers. Themagnitude of these corporate acquisitions, both collectively and in individual cases,has been large. The Standard
Oil
takeover of Gulf in 1984, for example, cost$13.2 billion. That was dwarfed, however, by the $24 billion acquisition of RJRNabisco by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts
&
Co.
in 1988.Graph 1 below shows the annual value of mergers from 1980 through 1986,expressed both in nominal dollar magnitudes and constant 1982 dollars, with the1970 magnitudes shown for comparison. The sharp increase in merger activityafter 1982 is clear. Table
1
shows both the numbers and values of mergers forten major industries, classified by acquired firms. As shown, more mergersoccurred in the banking and financial industry than in any other, but the mergerswith the highest dollar values occurred in the oil and gas industry.Spoken and written opposition to such mergers has been so strong that it hasdominated the public debate about takeovers. Some of this opposition stems fromintellectual and political groups who are hostile to market processes, and whosee corporate takeovers as a particularly odious and sterile example of these pro-cesses. Much of it also, naturally, stems from corporate managements who havefound themselves (for reasons explained below) to be actual or potential targetsfor displacement through "hostile" takeover. Another source of opposition isorganized labor, which has suffered membership losses because of foreign com-petition and corporate restructuring.
A
final, prevalent source of opposition iseconomic ignorance.
 
96
THE JOURNAL
OF
LIBERTARIAN STUDIES
Fall
Graph 1: Annual Value Mergers, 1970 and 1980-1986,in Billions of Real (1982) and Nominal Dollars
1982
Dollars
W
Nominal
Dollars
0
I
I
1
Source:
Starisrical Abstract of (he United Slates,
1988,
and
The Economic
Repon
ofthe President,
1989.
The intent of this essay is to alleviate some of that ignorance. First, the basiceconomics and empirics of corporate mergers will be discussed. Then, impor-tant arguments of takeover opponents, both recent and vintage, will be criticallyevaluated. A final section deals with some major forces determining legislativeand regulatory policy toward mergers over time.
The
Role
of
Greed
The ratio of emotional accusation to dispassionate analysis has been very largein the takeover debate. The charge most frequently and loudly made against cor-porate takeovers is that they are motivated by greed. At first glance, this seemsintuitively obvious. The acquiring firms, corporate raiders, lawyers, and invest-ment bankers involved often clear tens or even hundreds of millions of dollarsfrom a successful acquisition. Such sums stagger the imagination, and the super-ficial observer naturally concludes that the whole process is simply
an
ostentatiousdisplay of avarice.Scholarly inquiry necessarily proceeds beyond superficial appearances andcharacterizations, however. While pointing fingers and shouting "greed" maybe emotionally satisfying, and even useful for making converts, the concept is
 
0
w
Table 1. Merger and Acquisition Transactions: Number and Value
by
Industry, 1982-1986industry classificationnumber of mercersnominal value (mill. dol.)of sellertotalOil and gasBanking and financeInsuranceMining and minerals
Food
processingConglomerateTransportationBroadcastingRetailBrokerage
&
investmentOther
Source:
Statistical Absrract
of
the U.S.,
1988:
504.
ruble
no.
843

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