PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A King County, Wash. Superior Court judge granted a motion from the state’s attorney general on Thursday to temporarily block Albertsons from giving stockholders a $4 billion payout.

This comes as Albertsons and Kroger are in the middle of a $20 million merger deal.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed the nationwide temporary restraining order on Tuesday, Nov. 1. The attorney general said the lawsuit accuses Albertsons and Kroger of violating antitrust laws and the Consumer Protection Act.

Officials say the temporary restraining order will block the company from making the dividend payment as Ferguson’s lawsuit is ongoing.

Ferguson noted that “according to Securities & Exchange Commission filings, this $4 billion dividend exceeds Albertsons’ cash on hand. Albertsons revealed in a recent filing that it will pay for the dividend with $2.5 billion in cash on hand and borrow the rest.”

Albertsons and Kroger make up a “vast majority” of grocery stores in the state – boasting 216 Safeway and Albertsons stores and 114 Kroger-owned Fred Meyer and QFC stores, according to the attorney general’s office.

On Oct. 26, Ferguson joined a bipartisan group of six attorneys general in a letter urging Albertsons to delay the dividends pending state reviews of the proposed merger. The attorney general said the payout represents approximately one-third of the company’s total stock value.

In response, officials said Albertsons declined delaying the payment.

“Due to severely reducing its cash on hand, the payout could diminish Albertsons’ ability to keep up on inventory orders, forcing customers to go to other grocery stores when shelves are not stocked with the products they seek. Less inventory to stock could also impact employee hours,” Ferguson said in a press release.

Albertsons was set to make the dividend payments on Monday.

“Huge victory! Putting the brakes on this $4 billion payment is the right thing for Americans shopping at their local grocery store. Thanks to my team for their usual excellent job holding powerful interests accountable,” Ferguson said in a press release.