US Begins Court Battle Against Publishing Giants’ Merger

The government and publishing titan Penguin Random House exchanged opening salvos in a federal antitrust trial Monday as the US seeks to block the biggest US book publisher from absorbing rival Simon & Schuster. The case comes as a key test of the Biden administration’s antitrust policy.

The Justice Department has sued to block the $2.2 billion merger, which would reduce the Big Five U.S. publishers to four.

The government’s star witness, bestselling author Stephen King, is expected to testify at Tuesday’s session of the weekslong trial in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. King’s works are published by Simon & Schuster.

At Monday’s opening session, opposing attorneys for the two sides presented their cases before U.S. District Judge Florence Pan.

Justice Department attorneys called the merger “presumptively wrong” because it would shrink competition and, inevitably, the vital public discourse that books help engender. Penguin Random House countered that the new company would “enhance” competition because the combined company could turn out books more efficiently.

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