US: AT&T-Time Warner optimistic about DOJ’s merger appeal

Federal Appeals Court judges Thursday, December 6, questioned lawyers representing the Department of Justice (DOJ) about the government’s economic concerns regarding AT&T’s US$85 billion acquisition of Time Warner.

The DOJ’s Antitrust Division filed an appeal of a district court judge’s June approval of the merger that resulted in the formation of WarnerMedia—citing the deal would lead to higher pay-TV pricing and content blackouts for consumers, among other issues.

“‘Incentives remain the same’ for a super company to threaten a ‘blackout,’ in which it withholds content from distributors, in order to cripple rivals,” said Murray, as reported by CNN Business.

DC Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Robert Wilkins suggested that the trial judge may have made some errors in his 172-page decision for AT&T, but Wilkins questioned whether they were substantial enough to change the outcome or require that the case be sent back to the trial court for more proceedings.

“So how can we just ignore that and say the district court has irrationally switched positions?” asked Wilkins.

AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson said, “We feel like Judge Leon wrote a pretty tight order and it was an order that was very fact-specific to the AT&T/Time Warner case, and so we feel like we have an order that should stand up well in the appellate review… and so, we’re anxious to get this piece of it behind us.”

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