AT&T, T-Mobile Deal: Judge Weighs Dismissal In DOJ Case

Judge Huvelle scheduled a hearing for Dec. 15 to decide whether the government will proceed with its civil antitrust case against the megamerger, Bloomberg reported. But because AT&T withdrew its merger application last week from the Federal Communications Commission, DOJ lawyers argue that there is no longer any official merger to block.

And if AT&T later re-files a revised application with the FCC, a trial would be a waste of time and money.

“We don’t have any confidence that we are spending all this time and effort and the tax payers money and that we’re not being spun,” Huvelle said. “The landscape has changed.”

Justice Department lawyer Joseph Wayland told the judge that he would file a motion to withdraw the suit, because AT&T withdrew it merger application, which is required to approve the merger.

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"It's not a real transaction until they file with the FCC," Wayland told Judge Huvelle.

AT&T lawyer, Mark Hansen, argued that by proving the deal is not anticompetitive, it would be better equipped to make its case to the FCC.

The government must file its briefs by Dec. 13 and will meet again in court to decide whether the case will proceed two days later. A trial date had been set for Feb. 13.

The Department of Justice first filed suit to block the merger in August on anti-competitive grounds, and since then the deal has been facing mounting opposition. Competitor and third largest mobile provider Sprint also filed suit against the merger. Cellular South (now C-Spire) also piled on with a suit of its own, as did seven state attorneys general.

Last week, the FCC released a damning staff report that contradicted many of the claims AT&T made about the benefits of the proposed merger.