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172 Page Ruling Clears AT&T - Time Warner Merger

The District of Columbia federal district court just ruled that the AT&T merger with Time Warner can move forward. The deal had been on hold for nearly a year and a half, and the massive ruling explicitly stated that if the government sought to stay the ruling pending appeal, the court would deny that motion.

While this merger has been a lightning rod for controversy since being announced in 2016, it seems that all the hoopla was for naught. The district court's opinion placed no conditions on the merger, unlike prior mergers between exclusive content license holders and media networks.

What's the Big Deal?

Though the federal court may not have found the merger to violate antitrust law, it certainly laid out the many different scenarios by which AT&T and Time Warner, and the companies each own, could collude to effectively extort money out of consumers and other distributors or act in anti-competitive ways.

One such scenario involved restricting other distributors from using HBO, which is owned by Time Warner, to promote their services. However, at every turn, including the HBO challenge (which the court called "gossamer thin") the court seemed to side with the companies, finding the government just frankly lacked good evidence, while the companies had all the answers.

Exclamations Everywhere!

The long decision is, perhaps fortunately, broken up with interesting exclamations and quips scattered throughout, which seem to express the judge's own disbelief that the government has pursued the case this far on flimsy evidence.

At one point, the government's expert's theory is described as similar to a "Rube Goldberg contraption," but then goes on to seemingly apologize to Rube Goldberg for the comparison: "But in all fairness to Mr. Goldberg, at least his contraptions would normally move a pea from one side of the room to another."

For example, at one point, the court states: "Nowhere does the government explain why AT&T would ... Go Figure!" Earlier in the opinion, after citing some caselaw that didn't apply to the case, the court exclaims: "Not so here!"

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