NEW YORK (CNNfn) - The merger craze that swept Wall Street in the 1980s has returned a decade later with a vengeance.
Ten thousand deals, worth $600 million, were consummated last year, and another 1,800 already have been announced this year.
The pace has reached such a frenetic pace that the Federal Trade Commission only reviews cases in which the acquired company is worth at least $50 million.
But keeping up with all the deals is nevertheless a huge challenge for the agency.
Robert Pitofsky, the commission's chairman, said all deals are contingent on its effect on the consumer.
"Our job is ensure that those deals that injure consumers don't go through," he told CNN's Moneyline with Lou Dobbs. "On the other hand, we don't want to prevent 99 out of the 100 deals that are either neutral from a competitive point of view or actually pro consumer and pro efficiency."
That was the reason the agency rejected the merger between drug chains Rite-Aid and Revco.
He said the merger would have reduced the number of outlets that Health Maintenance Organizations and other big pharmaceutical buyers need to guarantee fair prices.
The damage to competition also is what led to a "no" vote for the merger of office equipment suppliers Staples and Office Depot.
But Pitofsky said the agency is willing to listen to a proposal from the companies to sell some outlets to competitor Office Max. (152K WAV) or (152K AIFF)
Pitofsky said the commission is trying to strike a delicate balance between the over-enforcement of the 1960s and under-enforcement of the 1980s.
"In the sixties, our policy was tough but not that tough," he said. "In the eighties, the Reagan Administration challenged some mergers but not nearly as many as previously. We are trying to carve out a compromise."