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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Merger activity has slowed to a trickle, but it's a raging river compared to what could be coming if some in Congress get their way.

Driving the news: Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who chairs House Judiciary's antitrust subcommittee, yesterday proposed a moratorium on all M&A activity outside of situations in which companies are bankrupt or on the brink of insolvency.

What Cicilline said, during an event hosted by liberal think tank Open Markets Institute:

"Private equity firms have been sitting on $2.5 trillion of investor cash, while dominant technology firms have over $570 billion in cash and investments ... Industry analysts are already beginning to forecast an acceleration of deal-making that may hasten economic concentration ...
"Mega-mergers and corporate takeovers that were permitted during the last economic crisis led to the firing of millions of workers, the slowing of investment and innovation, and huge increases in executive compensation. As we respond to the current crisis — with millions of Americans facing unemployment and millions of businesses in severe economic distress — we cannot afford to repeat this mistake."

Cicilline also called for antitrust officials to expand their focus to include such things as price-gouging and non-compete clauses.

The bottom line: It's very hard to see Cicilline getting this included in a Phase 4 stimulus bill, despite claiming to have the support of unidentified colleagues, or that he could write such rules tight enough that M&A lawyers wouldn't manage to wiggle around them. Particularly given counter-arguments that such constriction would be counterproductive for companies seeking maximum flexibility.

  • But it does suggest that deal-makers should prepare for added scrutiny on transactions they do move forward with.

Go deeper

Trump says Fauci is "wrong" about coronavirus cases surge

President Trump and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci during an April daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump called out Anthony Fauci Saturday in a comment retweeting a video of the NIAID director explaining why coronavirus cases have been surging in the U.S.

Driving the news: In the video of Friday's testimony, Fauci explained that while European countries shut 95% of their economies, the U.S. "functionally shut down only about 50%." Trump responded, "Wrong! We have more cases because we have tested far more than any other country, 60,000,000.

Trump renomination vote to be held in private, with no media present

President Trump at the White House on Friday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The vote on renominating President Trump will be held in private this month with no media present because of coronavirus "restrictions and limitations" in place in North Carolina, a Republican National Convention spokesperson told AP Saturday.

The big picture: The vote is due to take place at the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Aug. 24. When Trump announced on July 23 that he canceled plans to hold the convention in Jacksonville, Florida, over COVID-19 concerns, he said he'd give an acceptance speech "in a different form."

Aug 1, 2020 - World

Mexico reaches third-most coronavirus deaths worldwide

A coronavirus testing site in Mexico City, Mexico. Photo: Gerardo Vieyra/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Mexico on Saturday surpassed the United Kingdom to become the nation with the third-most coronavirus deaths, per Johns Hopkins University.

By the numbers: The U.S. and Brazil lead COVID-19-related death counts, with over 153,600 and 92,400, respectively as of Saturday. But Mexico's 46,688 deaths inched past the U.K.'s 46,278, with Mexican officials reporting 688 new deaths on Friday alone.

  • Mexico is only sixth in total number of coronavirus cases. Countries with higher case counts include U.S., Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa.