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Washington state lawyers up on Kroger, Albertsons merger

State to spend up to $2.5 million on legal team to block the acquisition

The state of Washington has hired law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson and will pay them $2.5 million to block the $24.6 billion Kroger, Albertsons merger, according to a story reported in Reuters

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed an antitrust lawsuit in January, arguing that the acquisition would lead to higher prices for consumers. 

The Reuters story noted that public records show that two partners at the law firm — Glenn Pomerantz and Kuruvilla Olasa — are earning $1,190 an hour for their work on the case. 

Pomerantz worked as counsel in a lawsuit challenging T-Mobile’s acquisition of Sprint, and he represented the U.S. Justice Department when it blocked AT&T’s purchase of T-Mobile, according to Reuters

In the Washington case, Kroger is represented by Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer; Weil, Gotshal & Manges; and K&L Gates are representing Kroger in the Washington case. Debevoise & Plimpton; Dechert; and Williams & Connolly are representing Albertsons.

Washington state is not the only government entity suing to block the deal. Colorado AG Phil Weiser filed a lawsuit in mid-February, and the Federal Trade Commission joined with nine other attorneys general in late February to block the deal. 

Kroger has worked to get the state AG cases thrown out of court, arguing that they do not have the jurisdiction to sue, but the courts have rejected those efforts.

In late April, King County Superior Court Judge Marshall Ferguson rejected the motion to dismiss.

The AG’s office said in an April press release that Kroger and Albertsons are the two largest grocers in the state, and Kroger employs more than 21,000 people in Washington state alone. 

“The proposed merger will eliminate head-to-head competition between the two largest grocery operators in the state. Ferguson’s lawsuit details that QFC — which is owned by Kroger — considers Safeway/Albertsons as its main competitor in the Seattle area. Across Washington, Albertsons considers either Fred Meyer or QFC — also Kroger owned — its primary competitor in every local market in Washington,” the AG’s office said. 

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