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[$$] FTC Approves Staples-Essendant Merger in Split Decision

WASHINGTON—A new-look Federal Trade Commission saw its first partisan split in a merger case late Monday, with a Republican majority allowing office-supply giant Staples Inc. to acquire office-supply wholesaler Essendant Inc. over Democratic objections that the FTC should do more to stop questionable deals. The sparring over the $483 million transaction revealed some of the early political contours of a commission whose five leadership positions all turned over last year. The FTC’s two new Democrats suggested that their GOP counterparts were being too cautious—and too credulous in accepting companies’ arguments about mergers producing more efficient firms. Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News FTC Chairman Joseph Simons is a Republican and longtime antitrust lawyer.