Back to court: US government tries to eclipse $60bn AT&T/Time Warner decision

13 July 2018 | Alan Burkitt-Gray


The US government has returned to fight AT&T’s acquisition of media company Time Warner, a month after it lost the court battle over the $60 billion deal.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) said it would appeal against the decision by the court on 12 June. AT&T said it would renew its defence of the deal.

AT&T completed the acquisition of Time Warner – now renamed WarnerMedia – on 15 June, just three days after the judge, Richard Leon, found against the DoJ, which had tried to block the deal.

The DoJ has not yet given any details of the grounds on which it is appealing against Leon’s verdict. David McAtee, AT&T general counsel, said: “The court’s decision could hardly have been more thorough, fact-based, and well-reasoned. While the losing party in litigation always has the right to appeal if it wishes, we are surprised that the DoJ has chosen to do so under these circumstances.”

Back in June, Leon said in his 200-page judgement: “The government has failed to meet its burden of proof to show that the merger is likely to result in a substantial lessening of competition.” He refused to delay the force of the ruling, saying that would be “manifestly unjust” – though commentators have noted that, by keeping the former Time Warner in a separate unit, AT&T has provided for any future reversal of the decision in an appeal court.

Assistant attorney general Makan Delrahim said following the court’s decision in June: “We continue to believe that the pay-TV market will be less competitive and less innovative as a result of the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner. We will closely review the court’s opinion and consider next steps in light of our commitment to preserving competition for the benefit of American consumers.”

McAtee said last night: “We are ready to defend the court’s decision at the DC circuit court of appeals.”