Tuesday, 20 November, 2018

US Appeals Against AT&T-Time Warner Deal

Justice Department Appeals AT&T-Time Warner Merger Decision Justice Department appeals AT&T-Time Warner merger | TheHill
Elsie Buchanan | 15 July, 2018, 07:17

The DoJ had been given 60 days to decide whether it wanted to appeal Judge Richard Leon's ruling, from June 13, and lodged the appeal on Thursday evening. In its lawsuit and during the trial, Justice Department attorneys said the combined companies would have the power to strong-arm competitors and drive up prices paid by customers. AT&T countered that the government's economic model was riddled with flaws and that the deal will enable AT&T and Time Warner to more effectively compete against companies such as Netflix Inc.

AT&T told PCMag it was "surprised" by the move.

The Department of Justice sued to block the deal in 2017, launching the biggest anti-trust suit in decades.

AT&T and Time Warner have already closed the deal, but AT&T is managing the Turner network separately from DirecTV and U-Verse.

The judge ruled the government failed to show the merger violates anti-trust law.

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"The (lower) court's decision could hardly have been more thorough, fact-based, and well-reasoned", said a statement from David McAtee, AT&T's general counsel. The DOJ has been pressing Leon to publicly release the transcripts of numerous sidebar conferences he had with lawyers on both sides, which has raised some speculation that the government will raise issues over some of the judge's evidentiary rulings.

AT&T also said that in the short term, it would have no role in setting Turner prices and the number of Turner employees and target compensation and benefits would remain "largely unchanged".

The matter now goes to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where a three-judge panel will consider the Justice Department's claims that Judge Leon was incorrect.

The DOJ appeal - and its potential success - could threaten AT&T's plans to deliver new video offerings such as AT&T WatchTV, a broadband-delivered video service with 30-plus channels, made available free to consumers under two new AT&T unlimited plans or for $15 monthly for other consumers.

AT&T shares (T) were down 1.4% in aftermarket trading Thursday to $31.78.

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