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DOJ's Antitrust Lawsuit Over Visa's $5 Billion Plaid Deal Could Effect Fintech M&A

Nov 05, 2020 By Stephane Dubois Categories - Industry Trends

Recently Business Insider spoke with Xignite's CEO and Founder Stephane Dubois, and other legal and industry experts on how they see the DoJ's lawsuit to block Visa's acquisition of Plaid is shaking out — and what this means for the fintech world. Read the article at Business Insider

The government filed its antitrust complaint in San Francisco federal court on Thursday, alleging that, "by acquiring Plaid, Visa would eliminate a nascent competitive threat that would likely result in substantial savings and more innovative online debit services for merchants and consumers."

If the Justice Department wins in court, the merger could be scuttled
Stephane Dubois, the CEO of financial data provider Xignite, thinks that the fact that the DOJ sued suggests that it does probably have a solid legal basis for its allegations.

Unless Visa — which has been represented by powerhouse law firm Skadden in connection with the deal — can fight the DOJ's lawsuit on a legal basis and argue successfully that the government's argument is too speculative, that they're not anticompetitive, he doesn't think the acquisition will go through.

Otherwise, Visa would need to comply with conditions set by the DOJ — for example, lower fees on credit cards, or breaking up its business — to make itself non-competitive. But he's not sure if Visa would be willing to do that.

Dubois said such a lawsuit could be a "cold shower" for fintechs that are considering mergers and acquisitions given the massive $200 million Plaid paid for its API competitor, Quovo, in January 2019, not to mention the $5.3 billion price tag of Visa's acquisition of Plaid.

The DOJ's lawsuit could fail and Visa's acquisition could go through, but with diverging possible outcomes for Plaid and other fintechs

Dubois sees several possible outcomes playing out should the DOJ's lawsuit fail. The acquisition would go through and Visa could continue to make Plaid available to fintechs, but in a way that it doesn't "cannibalize" its own business — for example, by charging 3% fees to competitor services that Plaid enables.

It's also possible that Visa shuts down Plaid after a successful acquisition, essentially squashing competition for the market, something Dubois called a "worst case scenario."

Stephane Dubois

Stephane Dubois

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Named twice to the Institutional Investor's Tech 50 list of financial visionaries and innovators, Stephane Dubois is a recognized financial data industry executive who founded Xignite to Make Market Data Easy. Stephane is a well-known fintech thought leader and is frequently quoted and has spoken at numerous fintech events around the world. 

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