Acadiana Business

DOJ sues to block AT&T merger

by Leslie Turk

Maintaining it had no indication DOJ planned to block its merger with T-Mobile USA, AT&T expressed surprise and disappointment Wednesday, the day the antitrust suit was filed.

Maintaining it had no indication the U.S. Department of Justice was planning attempt to block its merger with T-Mobile USA, AT&T expressed surprise and disappointment Wednesday, the day the suit was filed.

Wayne Watts, AT&T senior executive vice president and general counsel, said the company has met repeatedly with the DOJ and got no indication from the DOJ that it was contemplating an antitrust suit.

The DOJ sued to block AT&T proposed $39 billion buyout of T-Mobile USA, saying the combination of the second- and fourth-largest U.S. cellphone companies would hurt competition and is likely to raise prices because it removes an important competitor. The proposal, according to Bloomberg News, would be the biggest acquisition worldwide in more than a year.

"We plan to ask for an expedited hearing so the enormous benefits of this merger can be fully reviewed," Watts said in a statement. "The DOJ has the burden of proving alleged anti-competitive [effects], and we intend to vigorously contest this matter in court."

AT&T has maintained the merger will:
·         Help solve our nation's spectrum exhaust situation and improve wireless service for millions.
·         Allow AT&T to expand 4G mobile broadband to another 55 million Americans, or 97% of the population;
·         Result in billions of additional investment and tens of thousands of jobs, at a time when our nation needs them most.

"We remain confident that this merger is in the best interest of consumers and our country," Watts continued. "And the facts will prevail in court."

The Wall Street Journal reported that the DOJ left the door open for AT&T to propose remedies to the deal:

The acting chief of the department's antitrust division, Sharis Pozen, said at a news conference that the companies have been in constant discussions with the department, and she did not foreclose the possibility of an eventual settlement.

"We apprised them of our serious concerns, and as any party can do, our door is open," Ms. Pozen said. If they want to resolve those concerns, we can certainly do that. Here we filed a lawsuit and we'll proceed in court. We'll see what happens next."

While competitor Sprint immediately challenged the proposed merger when it was announced March 20 and it appeared headed for significant regulatory obstacles, it had since gained widespread support from a diverse group of organizations.

Read more from the WSJ here.