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TheStreet Open House

Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street: Nov. 13

Irregular Regulators

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- We've seen plenty of hostile corporate takeovers over the years. But the escalating battle between international regulators over the pending Oracle (ORCL)- Sun Microsystems (JAVA) deal is a new twist even for us.

The European Commission, which formally objected to the $7.4 billion merger on the grounds that it could hurt competition in the database market, called out the U.S. Justice Department Tuesday. The cause of EC's displeasure was a curious statement by the U.S. regulator reaffirming its August decision to allow the merger.

Judges

"We remain hopeful that the parties and the EC will reach a speedy resolution that benefits consumers in the commission's jurisdiction," Molly Boast, deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's antitrust division, said in a statement Monday.

Miffed that the Justice Department was pressing for the merger while the ball was still in their court, EC spokesman Jonathan Todd brusquely responded Tuesday by calling the American statement "unusual."

"I cannot recall any instance where the European Commission has ever issued a statement concerning ongoing investigations in another jurisdiction," said Todd, adding, "We have our methods, they have theirs."

Good golly, Miss Molly, we have a good, old-fashioned bureaucratic brouhaha brewing.

Of course, this isn't the first time the two regulators issued different decisions on a merger case. In 2000, U.S. authorities approved General Electric's (GE) takeover of Honeywell (HON), but the EC stepped in to block it the following year on antitrust grounds.

Nevertheless, the economic climate is very different this time around. The chips are down and even regulators know that it's every nation for itself.

And that means that even fellow trust-busters can't be trusted.

Dumb-o-meter score: 95 -- It's like going to a hockey game and seeing a fight break out -- among the referees.

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