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U.S. Should Probe Waste Management-Oakleaf Deal, Group Says

Waste Management Inc.’s acquisition of Oakleaf Global Holdings Inc. should be investigated by the U.S. Justice Department as the garbage-hauling industry continues to consolidate, said a group that favors stronger antitrust enforcement.

By buying Oakleaf, Waste Management will rid itself of a national competitor, wrote Bert Foer, president of the Washington-based American Antitrust Institute, in a letter to Acting Assistant Attorney General Sharis Pozen.

The $425 million purchase would leave two dominant companies, Houston-based Waste Management and Phoenix-based Republic Services Inc., which could lead to higher prices, Foer said in the letter.

“The industry has now reached what should be seen as a code-red competitive condition because of the concentration of landfill ownership in the hands of WM and Republic,” he wrote.

Peter Anderson, executive director of the Center for a Competitive Waste Industry in Madison, Wisconsin, sent a letter Aug. 8 to Pozen also asking for an investigation. Foer serves on the center’s board of advisers.

On July 28, Waste Management said it would close the Oakleaf acquisition.

The transaction is structured in a way that doesn’t trigger a federal law requiring a pre-merger review of the acquisition by the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission, Lynn Brown, a Waste Management spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

Brown said the Justice Department is aware of the transaction.

“We feel comfortable that this deal does not change the competitive landscape in the industry since we acquired no trucks, no transfer stations, no landfills,” she said.

Gina Talamona, a Justice Department spokeswoman, declined to comment.

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