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DOJ sues to challenge AT&T-Time Warner merger

21 November 2017

AT&T said Monday that United States antitrust enforcers filed suit to block its merger with Time Warner, setting up a major court battle over the US$85 billion tie-up.

AT&T and Time Warner announced their $85 billion merger a year ago but the closing has been dragged out by the government's anti-trust review.

On Monday, AT&T's general counsel David McAtee called the DOJ lawsuit "a radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent".

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The US Department of Justice will reportedly file an antitrust lawsuit against AT&T with regards to its proposed acquisition of Time Warner. In 2011, for example, the office affirmed a comparative arrangement - Comcast's obtaining of NBCUniversal - in the wake of forcing various conditions on the exchange. The antitrust lawsuit announcement followed weeks of speculation that included reports the DOJ demanded AT&T and Time Warner sell Turner Broadcasting, which includes CNN.

The Trump administration has had a strained relationship with the news network. "It is an insult to the career attorneys in the Justice Department to suggest that the decision to bring this suit was not based on the merits of the case", said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, veteran telecom observer now with the Georgetown University Law School. "We see no legitimate reason for our merger to be treated differently". AT&T owns nationwide satellite provider DirecTV; Time Warner's channels also include TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network and HBO. "This deal would give AT&T way too much power to undercut competitors and raise costs on TV viewers and internet users everywhere". AT&T Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson countered those reports the next day, saying he'd never been under pressure from the DOJ to sell CNN.

DOJ sues to challenge AT&T-Time Warner merger