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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

Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbers

Expand chart
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Two new Biden administration initiatives — mailing at-home COVID-19 tests to those who ask and making free N95 masks available — are hugely popular, each backed by 84% of Americans in the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Yes, but: Those who may need these most — the unvaccinated — are less likely to take advantage of the offerings, the survey found. And neither has boosted President Biden's numbers so far, meaning it's too little too late, or too soon to see a change.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Alabama's new congressional map rejected by federal judges

The Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Federal judges on Monday night blocked Alabama's newly drawn congressional map and ordered the Republican-led State Legislature to create a new one that includes two districts, rather than the planned one.

Why it matters: "Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress," the panel of three judges wrote in their ruling.