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Antitrust Chief Jumps Into His Job

 |  November 22, 2017

Posted by Wall Street Journal

Meet Makan Delrahim, the Antitrust Chief Heading Up AT&T-Time Warner Lawsuit

By Brent Kendall

The Justice Department’s new antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, needed just seven weeks to land himself in the middle of the biggest antitrust case in 20 years.

Mr. Delrahim, confirmed by the Senate September 27, made the decision to file the government lawsuit Monday challenging AT&T Inc.’s planned acquisition of Time Warner Inc. The antitrust division he leads alleged that the vertical combination of AT&T’s video distribution with Time Warner’s popular cable programming would give the merged firm the power to raise prices and hinder competitors and innovation.

AT&T criticized the government’s arguments as unreasonable and inconsistent with past practice, which has focused primarily on horizontal mergers between direct competitors. It called President Donald Trump’s repeated criticisms of Time Warner’s CNN the “elephant in the room” in the Justice Department’s case, raising questions about political influence.

Mr. Trump criticized the deal on the campaign trail last October when it was announced, and criticized it again Tuesday. “Personally, I’ve always felt that that was a deal that’s not good for the country,” he told reporters at the White House.

The Justice Department said the White House had no role in the decision to sue.

The dispute has set the stage for a major court battle in Washington, the highest-profile antitrust case since the Justice Department sued Microsoft in 1998 on allegations of unlawful monopolization. Microsoft Corp. avoided a breakup of its business but agreed to restrictions on its business conduct.

AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson said the new lawsuit threw the business world into a state of uncertainty about what types of deals and investment are permissible.

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