Anthem, Cigna may be forced to reveal merger-dispute documents

Anthem Inc. and Cigna Corp. should be required to reveal documents in which the health insurance companies accuse each other of breaching their merger agreement, according to an adviser to the judge overseeing a U.S. lawsuit seeking to block the deal.

Letters and emails between the two companies might become evidence in the Justice Department’s lawsuit seeking to halt the $48 billion deal, Richard Levie, who has been appointed special master in the case, said in a report Thursday. The judge hasn’t yet ruled on the recommendation.

Indianapolis-based Anthem and and Bloomfield, Connecticut-based Cigna argue the documents shouldn’t be released because they’re privileged communications. The case is set to go to trial on Nov. 21.

The special master agrees with the Justice Department’s contention that the documents may help the U.S. argue that Anthem and Cigna won’t become more efficient by merging, because the companies and their leaders can’t get along.

Anthem and Cigna say that their deal should go forward because they could pass cost savings from streamlining their operations on to consumers. Levie did say the companies should be allowed to hold back some documents.

“To the extent that the letters alleging breach reflect hostility between these individuals, such hostility may hamper these individuals’ ability to work together,” the special master wrote.

Representatives of Anthem and Cigna declined to comment on the special master’s recommendation.

Tensions between Anthem and Cigna have been evident since before the Justice Department sued the companies in July to stop the merger, which the U.S. says would reduce competition and reduce choice for consumers. At a court hearing in August, an Anthem lawyer said there is “contentiousness” with Cigna and that Cigna intends to walk away from the deal after an April 30 deadline for closing.

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