AT&T, Time Warner Antitrust Trial Date: March 197 Dec, 2017 By: Erik Gruenwedel
A federal judge Dec. 7 set the trial date for the Department of Justice’s antitrust case against AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, including Warner Bros., Turner and HBO.
Judge Richard Leon — who was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 2001 by President George W. Bush, announced the date, which is after AT&T’s preferred Feb. 20 hearing date and before the DOJ’s preference for May 7.
The merger between AT&T and Time Warner has an extended April 22 termination date, with Time Warner reportedly set to receive $500 million from AT&T if an agreement isn’t finalized at that time.
“We thank the court for its deliberate and expeditious approach to this matter,” David McAtee, general counsel for AT&T, said in a statement. “We understand and appreciate how busy the court is, and we will promptly discuss the post-trial schedule with Time Warner. We are committed to this transaction and look forward to presenting our case in March.”
AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner seemed a formality following federal and international regulatory approvals until the DOJ voiced its concern, citing potential harm to consumers.
“It would mean higher monthly television bills and fewer of the new, emerging innovative options that consumers are beginning to enjoy,” Makan Delrahim, antitrust regulator with the DOJ, said in a statement.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) supports the antitrust litigation (citing aforementioned consumer issues), while questioning its true motive.
“At the same time, the Justice Department’s move rings alarm bells. [President Trump’s] attacks on our free press have cast a cloud of suspicion over the decision to block the merger,” Warren told attendees at Open Markets Institute, a left-wing Washington, D.C.–based think tank. “It’s essential that the courts and the public approach this case as they would any other — based on the law and the facts, and not on Trump’s repeated efforts to punish his enemies.”
Indeed, Trump is an outspoken critic of Turner-owned CNN, characterizing the media outlet “fake news.”