By Jeffrey May, J.D.
The federal district court in Washington, D.C. has set March 19, 2018, as the start date for a trial to determine whether AT&T, Inc.’s proposed $108 billion acquisition of Time Warner, Inc. should be blocked on antitrust grounds. Federal District Court Judge Richard J. Leon held an initial status conference this afternoon to consider the parties’ arguments over when the bench trial should begin (U.S. v. AT&T, Inc., December 5, 2017, Leon, R.).
AT&T had sought a start date of around February 20, 2018. The merging companies said they expected the trial to last about 10 days and to conclude on or about March 5, leaving "approximately 45 days before the expiration of the merger agreement on April 22, 2018."
In a recent filing, the government said that the early trial date was an "attempt to rush this important matter to trial to meet an artificial April 22 deadline." The government had sought a longer pre-trial discovery period, proposing a start to the trial in early May 2018.
The Department of Justice Antitrust Division filed the lawsuit on November 20, saying that the combined company "would hinder its rivals by forcing them to pay hundreds of millions of dollars more per year for Time Warner’s networks, and it would use its increased power to slow the industry’s transition to new and exciting video distribution models that provide greater choice for consumers."
Another status conference has been scheduled for December 21.
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