The US Justice Department said on Thursday that it will appeal a judge’s decision to clear AT&T’s mega-merger deal with Time Warner, Reuters reports.
AT&T was sued by the Justice Department on antitrust grounds, with authorities arguing that the US$85.4 billion deal would harm consumers.
But a federal judge last month approved the deal, allowing it to move forward following a lengthy trial. The merger, first announced in October 2016, was also opposed by President Donald Trump.
The Justice Department opted in June not to seek an immediate stay of the court’s approval of the merger, allowing the deal to close on June 14.
However, the department still had 60 days to appeal the decision approving the merger. Now, on Thursday, it filed a notice of appeal in a court in Washington, the report said.
AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson told reporters on Thursday at a conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, that the company was not surprised about the Justice Department’s decision to appeal.
“They have the right to appeal. Everyone has the right to appeal. We have a very fact-based thoughtful order. It will be evaluated on those grounds,” he said.
US District Judge Richard Leon ruled last month that the tie-up between AT&T’s wireless and satellite businesses with Time Warner’s movies and television shows was legal under antitrust law.
The judge had sharply urged the Justice Department not to seek a stay of his ruling, saying that it would be “manifestly unjust” to do so and not likely to succeed.
In his ruling, he said the government had failed to show competitive harm.
AT&T told the government in a June 14 letter that it will manage Time Warner’s Turner cable television networks as part of a separate business unit and take other steps until February 2019 or until any government appeal.
The telecoms giant also said that in the short term it will have no role in setting Turner prices.
AT&T also said it would implement a firewall between Turner and AT&T to prevent the exchange of sensitive information of unaffiliated programmers or distributors.
In 2016, the Justice Department had demanded that AT&T sell the Turner networks, which include CNN, as part of approving the merger.
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