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

14 Juillet, 2018, 11:17 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
  • Smartphone with AT&T logo is seen in front of displayed Time Warner logo in this

The Justice Department filed a notice of appeal of a federal judge's decision last month that paved the way for AT&T to acquire Time Warner. It launched a new low-cost streaming service.

Using unusually strong language, Leon discouraged the Justice Department from asking him to put the ruling on hold while it considers an appeal.

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.

During the trial, the DOJ argued the vertical merger, a merger between two companies in the same industry but at different stages of the business, would reduce competition and hurt consumers by allowing the company to have greater control in negotiations with programmers. That type of combination is called a vertical merger. Everyone has the right to appeal. Still, the Justice Department apparently believes it has an adequate legal basis to show an error in Leon's ruling, Schaeffer said. Were he to grant a stay during the appeals process, the merger would not have been completed before the June 21 "break-up date" for the deal.

The appeal could be seen as a warning sign for companies that have pursued their own mergers in the wake of Leon's decision, Kimmelman added.

Leon also wrote that if the DOJ appealed and won, the Circuit Court would have no qualms about unwinding the merger. The resulting AT&T-Time Warner megacompany retained ownership of Warner Bros., HBO and Turner. AT&T is a phone, cable and satellite behemoth that became the biggest pay-TV provider in the US with its acquisition of DirecTV in 2014. It claims about 25 million of the 90 million or so US households that are pay-TV customers. It renamed the New York-based media company WarnerMedia.

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Mr Trump has publicly feuded with Time Warner's CNN, calling it "failing" and a purveyor of "fake news".

It has committed to certain conditions under which it will run Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting, which includes CNN.

Federal lawyers contended that a combined AT&T and Time Warner would be too large and powerful.

Soon after the deal closed, AT&T announced a price increase for DirecTV Now, the company's online streaming video service. That apparently wasn't enough, however, to satisfy the Justice Department.

The Trump administration has opposed the deal from the start. Waiting in the wings are potential big-billions deals involving Verizon and CBS and T-Mobile and Sprint.

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