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Morgan Stanley said to win U.S. antitrust approval for E-Trade

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Morgan Stanley won U.S. antitrust approval for its $13 billion acquisition of discount brokerage E-Trade Financial, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The Justice Department’s antitrust division has signed off on the takeover without requiring any changes, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the decision hasn’t been made public. A Morgan Stanley spokesman declined to comment.

The E-Trade acquisition lets Morgan Stanley push further into the retail market, adding E-Trade’s $360 billion of client assets at year-end to Morgan Stanley’s $2.7 trillion. The deal is part of Chief Executive Officer James Gorman’s strategy of reshaping the Wall Street firm to cater to wealth management clients. Morgan Stanley has said it expects to close the deal in the fourth quarter.

Even before this year’s coronavirus pandemic upended markets, the retail-brokerage industry was in turmoil, shaken by price wars and consolidation. In early October, Charles Schwab eliminated commissions for U.S. stock trading, spurring other brokerages to follow suit and sweeping away an important revenue stream. The following month, Schwab agreed to buy rival TD Ameritrade, which would create a mega-firm with $5 trillion in assets.

The Justice Department’s antitrust division is still investigating the TD Ameritrade deal.

E-Trade, founded in 1982, was one of the early players in the discount-brokerage industry. Its reach with self-guided traders online gives Morgan Stanley access to a broader customer base, including those who may have less to invest than its current clients.

Bloomberg News