Wednesday, 21 November, 2018

Justice Department appeals approval of AT&T-Time Warner merger

Justice Department appeals approval of AT&T-Time Warner deal Justice Department Appeals AT&T-Time Warner Merger Decision
Priscilla Morrison | 14 July, 2018, 11:19

The Justice Department is appealing a judge's ruling approving the merger of AT&T and Time Warner, according to court documents filed Thursday. When the deal was first made public in October 2016, it drew fire from 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.

A Justice Department win at the appeals level would undo a stinging rebuke for the government and vindicate the decision by the head of the antitrust division, Makan Delrahim, to challenge the Time Warner takeover.

But in June Leon ruled that the government's objections "rested on improper notions" and warned against an appeal. Leon "tried his best to make it appeal-proof", said Fiona Schaeffer, an antitrust attorney at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy. We have a very fact-based thoughtful order. "It will be evaluated on those grounds". Since taking office, Trump has not commented on the deal itself, but in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News previous year he showed amenability to a more aggressive stance on enforcing competition in the media world.

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The deal was wrapped up and finalized last month. In his ruling, he said the government had failed to show competitive harm. The Trump administration's Justice Department did not seek a stay of the ruling, so AT&T was able to take ownership of Time Warner.

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". "I think the Department of Justice believes this is a really important case that will influence the legal standard for analyzing vertical mergers in the 21st century", she said. While many consumer advocates agreed, President Trump's frequently expressed animus toward CNN hung over the trial, despite Leon's admonition it had no place in court.

Deals approved by a federal judge have been undone on appeal in the past. The Federal Trade Commission had argued the deal would have merged the No. 2 and No. 3 baby food makers and that competition would be "lessened substantially" if it were to go forward.

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