Published: Sat, July 14, 2018
Money | By Ralph Mccoy

Justice Department will appeal $85 billion AT&T, Time Warner merger

Justice Department will appeal $85 billion AT&T, Time Warner merger

When the deal was first announced in October 2016, it was condemned by then-candidate Donald Trump, who promised to kill it "because it's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few".

The logos for Time Warner and AT&T appear in June above trading posts at the New York Stock Exchange. The DOJ's case to stop the merger is one of the largest anti-trust actions of this generation and a centerpiece in the strategy of Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, the head of the Antitrust Division. Well, it seems like they are pushing forward by appealing. Leon "tried his best to make it appeal-proof", said Fiona Schaeffer, an antitrust attorney at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy. "It will be evaluated on those grounds", he said.

The Justice Department sued to stop the deal a year ago, saying that a distributor, AT&T, owning the likes of HBO, CNN and Warner Bros. would harm consumers by causing an increase in prices and would hurt innovation and competition. Opposing the merger forced the federal antitrust regulators to argue against standing legal doctrine that favors mergers among companies that don't compete directly with each other. It's possible the court could place the case on a fast track because the longer an appeals process takes, the more integrated the two companies will become. That plan got a serious rebuke with Judge Leon's ruling last month that the merger did not violate antitrust laws.

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Warner also called on the president and his allies to "immediately cease and desist from calling the Mueller investigation a witch hunt".

Spokespeople for the DOJ declined to comment. In his ruling, he said the government had failed to show competitive harm. It closed days later, but the Justice Department was given 60 days to appeal the ruling. In response, AT&T said that the deal would actually lead to lower prices for TV viewers. But in widely reported remarks, he also said he expected far greater volume of programming.

But last week, critics seized on reports that AT&T was already planning to raise prices on DirecTV Now streaming service.

Deals approved by a federal judge have been undone on appeal in the past.

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