AT&T CEO says open to litigation on Time Warner deal

Donald Trump
Donald Trump vowed to stop the deal while running for presidency
Author

12 November, 2017

Back in February, The Wall Street Journal reported that Jared Kushner had spoken to a Time Warner executive to express "the administration's deep concerns about CNN's news coverage... what Mr. Kushner feels is unfair coverage slanted against the president". In light of Trump's frequent critiques of CNN, the move raised questions about Trump's possible political interference in what is supposed to be an impartial economic analysis.

The official the president referred to was DOJ anti-trust chief Makan Delrahim, a Trump appointee who has threatened to block the deal in court unless AT&T sells off either Turner Broadcasting or its DirecTV service-the latter option impossible as it would undermine the entire basis of the merger. AT&T shares rose 1.6 percent to $33.97. Stephenson, however, made it clear that AT&T was prepared to fight attempts to block the deal. The companies had been planning to finalize the deal by the end of the year, and just last week AT&T said it was confident it would win approval for the deal since it does not involve direct competitors.

AT&T has argued against selling off either company's assets, as it believes this would undercut the rationale for the tie-up.

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Time Warner headquarters in New York City.

Consumer groups, some TV networks and some conservative groups have criticized the deal, saying it would hurt consumers by allowing AT&T to discriminate against TV networks it doesn't own or raise prices on other cable and satellite TV companies for its programming.

Forcing a sale of CNN could harm the news network, if a buyer doesn't have the same deep pockets as AT&T and Time Warner to support newsgathering. "It's hard to imagine an antitrust argument that will be compelling" from the government, he said. The Department of Justice said it does not comment on pending investigations, but that it was "committed to carrying out its duties in accordance with the laws and the facts".


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