Justice Department appeals AT&T-Time Warner merger approval after all

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Just when we thought the AT&T–Time Warner merger was finally a done deal after a district court judge ruled in its favor last month, it seems not everyone wants to accept its terms. The Justice Department has filed to appeal the approval, according to a court document spotted by CNBC, which could reverse the deal if the DOJ wins.

Big News: DOJ appeals AT&T, Time Warner decision. Deal already closed back in June but can be unwound if DOJ wins on appeal. #antitrust pic.twitter.com/wiKJcy1uzO

a�� Victoria Graham (@vgraham27) July 12, 2018
AT&T announced an $85.4 billion bid for Time Warner back in 2016, which the Justice Department rebutted with an antitrust lawsuit last November. When that wrapped up in the beginning of May, the DOJ proposed solutions to ensure the merger wouldn’t fall afoul of anti-competitive law: Either get rid of DirecTV or Turner (which contains TNT, TBS and CNN).

But exactly a month ago, a district court judge decided that the government hadn’t established that the deal would significantly decrease competition. He ruled in favor of the acquisition reportedly without conditions. The resulting AT&T-Time Warner megacompany retained ownership of Warner Bros., HBO and Turner.

Shortly after the merger, AT&T wasted no time hiking user fees to pay for it. The company’s CEO assured that they’d take a hands-off approach with HBO, but in a recent closed town hall meeting, he suggested aggressive increases in the premium network’s content output.

As you might expect, it didn’t take long for AT&T to respond.

“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,” AT&T General Counsel David McAtee said in a statement provided to CNBC. “We are ready to defend the Court’s decision at the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.”

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David Li

David Li writes regular column on Driverdown for some big names, including Apple, Google and Microsoft. His role before joined Driversdown is senior writer of qudong.com, and then Science and Technology Daily. David based in Driversdown Beijing office. Contact David via david@driversdown.com