AT&T says DOJ's appeal of Time Warner decision won’t be a do-over

U.S. Justice Department
The U.S. Justice Department. (CoolCaesar/Wikimedia)

The Justice Department is officially appealing Judge Richard Leon’s decision in the Time Warner merger case, but AT&T is calling no takebacks.

In June, Leon gave his official blessing for AT&T’s $85 billion merger with Time Warner following a lengthy hearing over the DOJ’s challenge. While AT&T cheered the decision, the DOJ said it was considering “next steps.”

Now, the DOJ’s next step is here in the form of prebrief detailing the agency’s appeal. And today during an investor conference, AT&T CFO John Stephens detailed the reasons why AT&T is not concerned.

"This isn't a chance for a do-over. It just doesn't work that way," Stephens said. He said that the judge did a "thorough review."

"We are expecting to continue to move on in the current state with the deal closed,” said Stephens. “We feel very confident that the deal is closed and we will be able to operate moving forward.”

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In the DOJ’s lengthy appeal document (PDF), the agency warns that the combination of AT&T and Time Warner will allow AT&T to jack up prices on its distributor rivals for Time Warner’s content, while also protecting its own distribution businesses from arising competition.

“The district court held otherwise, but only by erroneously ignoring fundamental principles of economics and common sense. These errors distorted its view of the evidence and rendered its factual findings clearly erroneous, and they are the subject of this appeal,” the DOJ wrote.

Specifically, the DOJ said that the court’s reasoning for allowing the merger is “contrary to fundamental economic logic.”

But AT&T sounds confident that the DOJ is not presenting anything new in its appeal that would warrant undoing the merger.

“After a long trial, Judge Leon weighed the evidence and rendered a comprehensive 172-page decision that systematically exposed each of the many holes in the Government’s case. There is nothing in DOJ’s brief today that should disturb that decision,” said AT&T General Counsel David McAtee said in a statement.