Justice Department Appeals AT&T-Time Warner Merger Ruling


In an unexpected move, the U.S. Justice Department has appealed a decision last month that allowed AT&T to acquire Time Warner in a $85.4 billion deal.

Reports first surfaced Wednesday evening that suggested the Justice Department's Antitrust Division was planning to appeal federal Judge Richard Leon's June decision to allow AT&T to go ahead with its planned acquisition of media giant Time Warner. The DOJ officially filed its notice of appeal with the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. on Thursday.

AT&T first announced its intent to buy Time Warner for its valuable media content assets in 2016, but was met with a lawsuit from the DOJ in December 2017. The Justice Department said that the combination would cut competition and hike up prices for customers.

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Judge Leon ruled on June 12 that the so-called vertical merger wouldn't stifle competition. He also didn't impose conditions on the merger's approval.

The Justice Department could have requested a stay from Judge Leon or the appeals court, which would have forced AT&T and Time Warner to wait to complete the deal, but Judge Leon was clear at the time that he wouldn't have granted a stay.

On June 14, AT&T closed its acquisition of Time Warner, however, the DOJ had 60 days after the court's ruling to file an appeal by law.

David McAtee, general counsel for AT&T said in a statement regarding the DoJ's decision that the court’s ruling "could hardly have been more thorough, fact-based, and well-reasoned."

"While the losing party in litigation always has the right to appeal if it wishes, we are surprised that the DOJ has chosen to do so under these circumstances. We are ready to defend the Court’s decision at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals," McAtee said.

The Justice Department could not be reached for comment prior to publication

AT&T's stock declined by a little more than 1 percent in after-hours trading to $31.78 on Thursday.