AT&T to judge: We don’t need conditions on Time Warner acquisition

That's because AT&T doesn't think the government has proven its case to block the $85 billion merger with Time Warner, according to a post-trial brief.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
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AT&T office New York City, USA: Signage and logo outside its
Roberto Machado Noa

AT&T told the judge deciding its antitrust case that it sees no need to put conditions on its merger with Time Warner, according to a brief filed late Thursday.

The US Department of Justice is suing to block AT&T's $85 billion deal to acquire Time Warner. The trial concluded earlier this week and the decision is now in the hands of Judge Richard Leon of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

The government argued during the trial that if AT&T were to own Time Warner, it could violate antitrust law by using its market power to get higher prices from TV distributors. It could also threaten to withhold content from Time Warner channels, such as CNN, HBO or TNT, in order to gain a competitive advantage for AT&T's TV services. Ultimately, the government argued this would harm competition and innovation as well as raise prices for consumers.

AT&T and Time Warner have argued that's not the case at all. And in their post-trial brief, they said the DOJ had failed to prove its argument.

"The government did not even begin to make a credible case that the merger would likely harm competition, substantially or even just a little," AT&T's attorney said in the brief, according to Reuters.

Judge Leon had asked both sides to suggest possible remedies that could alleviate anti-competitive concerns in their post-trial briefs. But AT&T and Time Warner said in their brief that they did not see the need for any conditions.

"Because there is no proven harm, there is no basis in law for any remedy, equitable or otherwise," the attorneys wrote according to CNN Money. "The court should deny the request for an injunction blocking the merger and enter judgment for defendants."

Last week, the Justice Department told the judge he should consider requiring AT&T to make a "partial divestiture." Last year, the government had urged AT&T to divest either DirecTV, its satellite pay TV service with more than 20 million subscribers, or Time Warner's Turner cable channels.

But AT&T's lawyers had previously rejected that idea.

"Divestitures here would destroy the very consumer value this merger is designed to unlock. Divesting DirecTV would eliminate the price decrease for millions of DirecTV consumers predicted by the government itself, and divesting Turner would eliminate the content innovations and the advertising benefits that put downward pressure on Turner prices," the company said in a court filing, according to Reuters.

Leon is expected to decide the case by June 12.

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