Justice Department Appeals Court Ruling Allowing AT&T-Time Warner Merger

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WASHINGTON—Escalating the stakes in one of many period’s highest-profile antitrust instances, the Justice Division appealed a ruling that allowed AT&T Inc. to amass Time Warner Inc., setting the stage for a second spherical of authorized proceedings.

The division initiated the attraction Thursday with a two-page discover in federal courtroom, submitting it a month after U.S. District Choose

Richard Leon

rejected Justice Division arguments that the greater than $80 billion cash-and-stock deal would suppress competitors within the pay-TV trade.

AT&T closed the acquisition a short while later, however agreed to maintain Time Warner’s cable networks in a enterprise unit separate from AT&T’s communication belongings in the meanwhile, in case the federal government selected to attraction.

The attraction gained’t change something at AT&T whereas the district courtroom’s ruling stays in impact, however comes as an unwelcome distraction for the corporate, the place executives had been desperate to plunge into the high-profile world of present enterprise. The corporate now finds itself in a little bit of a limbo because the authorized proceedings proceed.

The Justice Division’s lawsuit towards the merger was one of the crucial anticipated antitrust instances in a era, and Choose Leon’s ruling was one of many division’s most stinging losses.

The AT&T deal is a “vertical” one, combing its main place as a pay-TV distributor—the so-called pipes, equivalent to its DirecTV satellite tv for pc service—with Time Warner content material: its well-liked cable channels equivalent to HBO, CNN, TNT and TBS.

Within the extra typical antitrust case, the federal government challenges horizontal offers involving two firms in the identical enterprise that compete face to face. The case marked the primary time in 40 years that a courtroom had seen a totally litigated problem to a vertical merger.

The federal government argued that AT&T would be capable to dictate larger carriage charges to competing distributors by threatening to withhold its cable networks from rival pay-TV suppliers, resulting in larger costs for customers.

The businesses responded that their two companies had been complementary and raised no considerations about competitors, contending the merged firm wouldn’t have the form of market energy to dictate worth will increase.

Choose Leon, in a strongly worded opinion, rejected the Justice Division’s arguments, saying the federal government fell nicely wanting proving its case. The decide made headlines throughout the trial when he questioned whether or not a key Justice Division principle, backed by a well-respected economist, was a Rube Goldberg contraption.

With the federal government’s attraction, the matter now goes to the U.S. Court docket of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the place a three-judge panel will contemplate the Justice Division’s claims that Choose Leon was incorrect. The appeals course of may take many months, leaving lingering uncertainty over AT&T’s plans.

AT&T stated it is able to defend Choose Leon’s ruling.

“The courtroom’s resolution may hardly have been extra thorough, fact-based and well-reasoned,” AT&T common counsel

David McAtee

stated. “Whereas the dropping occasion in litigation all the time has the precise to attraction if it needs, we’re shocked that the DOJ has chosen to take action below these circumstances.”

If the appeals courtroom had been to facet with the Justice Division, such a choice probably may result in an unwinding of the deal, or alternatively, some type of middle-ground treatment.

The federal government submitting Thursday was simply an preliminary discover and didn’t say something about what authorized arguments it plans to make towards Choose Leon’s ruling. The Justice Division declined to remark past what it filed in courtroom.

Write to Brent Kendall at brent.kendall@wsj.com and Drew FitzGerald at andrew.fitzgerald@wsj.com



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