U.S. District Judge Richard Leon has ruled that a proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner is not an antitrust violation, clearing the way for the $85.4 billion consolidation to proceed.
Variety reports that Leon read from his decision in the courtroom, having concluded that “the government had failed to prove that the merger would substantially lessen competition.” Daniel Petrocelli, lead attorney for Time Warner, said that he expects the merger to close by June 20th. David McAtee, general counsel for AT&T, released a statement lauding the decision:
“We are pleased that, after conducting a full and fair trial on the merits, the Court has categorically rejected the government’s lawsuit to block our merger with Time Warner… We thank the Court for its thorough and timely examination of the evidence, and we compliment our colleagues at the Department of Justice on their dedicated representation of the government. We look forward to closing the merger on or before June 20 so we can begin to give consumers video entertainment that is more affordable, mobile, and innovative.”
As yet, the Justice Department has not said whether or not it will appeal the decision. Makan Delrahim, a lawyer for the government, said the DoJ was “disappointed” with the decision. Per the Star Tribune, Delrahim also noted in a statement that the pay-television industry would be “less competitive and less innovative” after the merger. Judge Leon, according to Variety, “said it would be a “manifestly unjust” outcome of the case if they received a stay that further delayed the merger, costing both companies. He noted the $500 million breakup fee, with the June 21 deadline for completing the transaction.”
Should the merger proceed, the result would be what The Verge calls “new telecom behemoth looming over the landscape, combining AT&T’s paid-TV subscribers with Time Warner’s content, which includes HBO, CNN, and Warner Bros.” The piece also notes that it deals “a major blow to the Justice Department’s antitrust enforcers and telegraphing a green light to other companies with similar merger plans.”