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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In April, several prominent Democrats proposed a moratorium on large mergers and acquisitions. Their argument was that the pandemic would embolden the strong to pounce on the weak, thus reducing competition.

Fast forward: The moratorium never materialized. Nor did the M&A feeding frenzy.

By the numbers: Announced deal value for U.S.-based companies through July 9 were down 64% from the same period in 2019, according to Refinitiv. Aggregate deal value between Q1 and Q2 2020 fell by more than 40%.

  • The number of announced deals did increase slightly between year-to-date 2019 and 2020, but relatively few of those were large transactions that would rearrange the competitive landscape.
  • There also was a sizable decrease for private equity-backed deals, in terms of both value and number of deals.

Between the lines: One reason for acquirer hesitance is that it's taking much longer to get deals over the finish line.

  • Take the example of Visa, which in January agreed to pay $5.3 billion for fintech upstart Plaid.
  • At the time, Visa said the deal would close in three to six months. Now Visa says it hopes to finish by year-end.
  • Plaid CEO Zach Perret told me yesterday that the delay was largely driven by a slowdown in the regulatory process, as the federal bureaucracy adjusts to remote work.

Then there's the still-surging public equities market. Yes, buyers have more firepower — but many target prices are just too high for comfort, and there have been fewer-than-expected distressed situations.

  • Robust federal lending programs have also kept a number of bankruptcies and near-bankruptcies at bay.

The bottom line: The pandemic continues to rage in America, and the M&A mitigation may ultimately look like a first wave phenomenon. But, at least for now, Monopoly needn't release a special 2020 edition.

Go deeper

Biden will reverse Trump's attempt to lift COVID-related travel restrictions

Photo: Tasos Katopodis via Getty

The incoming Biden administration will reverse President Trump's last-minute order to lift COVID-19 related travel restrictions, Jen Psaki, the incoming White House press secretary, tweeted.

Why it matters: President Trump ordered entry bans lifted for travelers from the U.K., Ireland, Brazil and much of Europe to go into effect Jan. 26, but the Biden administration will "strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Jen Psaki said. Biden will be inaugurated on Wednesday, Jan. 20 and Trump will no longer be president by the time the order is set to go into effect.

Dominion sends cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 5: Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.