Legal Issues

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
antitrust, doj, donald trump, makan delrahim, merger

Companies:
at&t



AT&T Lawyers Investigating Whether Trump Had Undue Influence On DOJ Merger Review

from the cronyism-vs-cronyism dept

Given the Trump administration's rubber stamping of every mono/duopolist desire (killing net neutrality, broadband privacy rules, media consolidation limits), most expected the AT&T Time Warner merger to see approval without much fuss. After all, while the problems caused by vertical integration deals like Comcast NBC Universal are very real, it didn't seem likely that an administration running rough shod over consumer protections would give much of a damn. Especially given that Trump DOJ antitrust boss Makan Delrahim had already been on record stating he saw no problems whatsoever with the deal.

That's why leaked reports that the DOJ was suddenly considering blocking the deal came as such a surprise. Said reports indicated that the DOJ was considering a lawsuit to thwart the deal unless AT&T was willing to divest either CNN-owner Turner broadcasting, or DirecTV -- which AT&T acquired last year.

There are two generally-accepted theories as to what motivated the Trump administration to hamstring the deal, neither of which (unless you're immensely gullible) involve actually caring about the very real negative repercussions the deal will have on telecom/media markets and consumers. One is that the Trump administration is simply getting vindictive revenge against CNN for its critical coverage of the president, a path one Trump administration official said was definitely on the table in a July report in the New York Times:

"White House advisers have discussed a potential point of leverage over their adversary, a senior administration official said: a pending merger between CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, and AT&T. Mr. Trump’s Justice Department will decide whether to approve the merger, and while analysts say there is little to stop the deal from moving forward, the president’s animus toward CNN remains a wild card."

But there's another motivation here for the Trump administration: doing a favor for Rupert Murdoch. Reports have indicated that Murdoch has been pressuring the Trump administration to block the deal since at least January, since the combined company would pose a greater competitive threat to his News Corp. empire. Reports more recently indicate that Murdoch approached AT&T at least twice in the last six months looking to convince AT&T to sell CNN, an idea AT&T isn't interested in. In short, it's very possible that Trump may be using the DOJ to force AT&T to make a deal with Murdoch.

AT&T lawyers clearly smell something fishy here, and the company quickly indicated it will be asking a court for any and all communications between the DOJ and the Trump administration. Not too surprisingly, AT&T's inquiry will focus, in part, on the role Rupert Murdoch is playing in scuttling the deal:

"In the event of a trial over the $85.4 billion deal, AT&T intends to seek court permission for access to communications between the White House and the Justice Department about the takeover, said the people, who asked not to be named because the deliberations are private...AT&T will also try to get any evidence about whether Rupert Murdoch tried to influence the review, according to one of the people. Murdoch, a Trump confidant, controls 21st Century Fox Inc., the parent of Fox News. The president has praised Fox News’s coverage of his administration."

The entire affair is just another indication that 2017 is simply too weird for words. Blocking the deal on antitrust grounds is the right thing to do to protect streaming markets from AT&T's long, documented history of anti-competitive behavior. But is it still the right thing to do if the only real goal is to silence critical media voices while aiding a Trump ally's own business ventures? Pick your poison.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Champion, 16 Nov 2017 @ 6:31am

    belgium looking into EA using gabling in star wars battlefront 2

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 16 Nov 2017 @ 6:55am

      Re: belgium looking into EA using gabling in star wars battlefront 2

      Just under the main Techdirt logo, there's a button labeled "Submit a story"

      That's perhaps a more appropriate place to submit off-topic topics you with to see discussed than in the comments here.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2017 @ 8:23am

      Re: belgium looking into EA using gabling in star wars battlefront 2

      So EA wants to encourage people to 'gab' their mouths off?

      Next time spell check.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2017 @ 8:57am

        Re: Re: belgium looking into EA using gabling in star wars battlefront 2

        No no, EA was found to be using a significant number of gables in their in-game architecture. This use of gables, clearly being protected architectural IP in Belgium, goes far beyond fair use and thus EA is now being investigated by the courts.

        Further, monetizing custom and special gables via "unlockable" systems fed by real-world purchases shows flagrant disregard for this IP and Belgium's trade treaties which require protection of architectural IP.

        These treaties, originally signed by Bill Clinton and upheld by Obama and now Trump, are eroding consumer rights.

        Did I cover all the TD bases?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Champion, 16 Nov 2017 @ 6:31am

    correction

    gambling*

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2017 @ 6:38am

    why we love political parties

    "I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally."

    "The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty."

    Both voters in their political parties need to stop giving their own political scum passes while bitching about the other side's scum.

    Obama voters deserve Trump just like the Bush voters deserved Obama.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2017 @ 6:39am

      Re: why we love political parties

      crap... forgot to attribute George Washington, those quotes are from his farewell address.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2017 @ 7:42am

      Re: why we love political parties

      Considering many people here are also not fond of the 'us vs. them' attitude the parties have, Just who are you trying to preach to?

      Your preaching this to people that get told this exact point on a semi-regular basis... That's pretty counterproductive.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2017 @ 8:51am

        Re: Re: why we love political parties

        If what I said bothers you, then is likely applies to you.

        Eternal Vigilance means something... apparently something you have yet to understand. Please get with the program.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Baron von Robber, 16 Nov 2017 @ 9:38am

          Re: Re: Re: why we love political parties

          Does that come with Alex Jones Desiccated Chicken Bone Broth?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2017 @ 11:27am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: why we love political parties

            ah... the old you don't agree with my politics so you must be one of them shtick? As dumb as you are you would not likely make an intelligent robber baron.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2017 @ 11:00am

      Re: why we love political parties

      Ohh both sides are bad you say? What a fresh and interesting take that no one ever has thought of before. Next thing you’re going to tell us is that all regulations are bad and we should let the free market decide. Metronomes have more variety than you do.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        JEDIDIAH, 16 Nov 2017 @ 1:59pm

        Re: Re: why we love political parties

        The behemoth in question is only the behemoth it is because previous administrations allowed it to get that way.

        This is yet another example of desperately trying anything to smear the politician from the other party.

        At a certain point it gets so absurd you can't take any of it seriously anymore. That's bad because the wolf might finally come for real.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2017 @ 11:08am

      Re: why we love political parties

      "stop giving their own political scum passes"

      Which leads to Roy Moore insanity. It is difficult to comprehend the mental gymnastics required to come up with some of these ridiculous excuses they give him.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2017 @ 11:23am

        Re: Re: why we love political parties

        Roy Moore is not the only insanity, just a single instance of it. I watch constantly as both sides just trip all over themselves to protect their own by giving them passes and claiming "innocent until proven guilty" until the other side comes into the picture than then its all "guilty until proven innocent"

        the massive hypocrisy is doing far more damage than they will ever admit.

        Then we have all of the little grubs acting like there really is a difference between the two groups.

        The only difference is that one is "battery acid" and the other is "lye", both might be at opposite ends of the scale but caustic enough to damage everything they touch.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Baron von Robber, 16 Nov 2017 @ 11:28am

          Re: Re: Re: why we love political parties

          Yea, right
          Weinstien fired
          Stacey fired
          CK fire
          Frankin apologized/calls for investigation of himself.


          O'Really fired but rehired
          Roy still in there

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        JEDIDIAH, 16 Nov 2017 @ 2:02pm

        Re: Re: why we love political parties

        You mean not treating mere accusations as if they were already proven? I've never done that myself. This goes back before OJ. My standards haven't changed since the pre-web era.

        I actually thing punishing Weinstein prematurely is a bad thing. Hollywood seems fine with Hillbilly Justice.

        Some of the "defenses" of Moore have been rather deranged but they don't need to be. There's only one principle that's relevant. Either you actually believe in it or you don't.

        It's just like Free Speech.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2017 @ 6:43am

    Oooh, minion attempts a two-fer! Attack Trump and ATT!

    However, entire basis for your lengthy blather is alleged report that lawyers will try to delay trial by requesting information that they merely suspect is helpful.

    This is again just assertions.

    You kids never even attack Trump for REAL problems, like missiles into Syria for false flag blamed on the gov't, or sending FIVE carrier groups near North Korea, which isn't going to attack us.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2017 @ 6:44am

      Re: Oooh, minion attempts a two-fer! Attack Trump and ATT!

      Seems de rigueur this morning to reply to self, so here's mine.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2017 @ 9:25pm

        Re: Re: Oooh, minion attempts a two-fer! Attack Trump and ATT!

        You really miss Hamilton, don't you? Never mind, you can still think of Shiva giving Melania a stuffing up the chocolate highway while you stroke yourself to sleep tonight.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 16 Nov 2017 @ 6:57am

      Re: Oooh, minion attempts a two-fer! Attack Trump and ATT!

      Why do you think anyone else would care to hear about your favorite koolaid flavors?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2017 @ 8:59am

        Re: Re: Oooh, minion attempts a two-fer! Attack Trump and ATT!

        because they re different from your favorite koolaid flavors?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2017 @ 8:46am

      Re: Oooh, minion attempts a two-fer! Attack Trump and ATT!

      But what about all the other things that aren't relevant to this article?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2017 @ 10:33am

      Re: Oooh, minion attempts a two-fer! Attack Trump and ATT!

      But what about the gay frogs?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2017 @ 11:03am

      Re: Oooh, minion attempts a two-fer! Attack Trump and ATT!

      But what about common law married gay frogs?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 16 Nov 2017 @ 6:58am

    No conflict here

    Blocking the deal on antitrust grounds is the right thing to do to protect streaming markets from AT&T's long, documented history of anti-competitive behavior. But is it still the right thing to do if the only real goal is to silence critical media voices while aiding a Trump ally's own business ventures? Pick your poison.

    No need to pick a poison. The deal should be blocked because clearly it is intended to harm consumers by reducing available alternatives.

    At the same time, if the Trump administration tries to use what is sane as leverage for its own goals, they need to be smacked down. Not for blocking the deal, but for allowing it to go forward once they see their own goals achieved.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    A Sad Brit, 16 Nov 2017 @ 8:15am

    Murdoch

    Murdoch helped screw over England last year, it's very bad news once your head of state is in bed with him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 16 Nov 2017 @ 9:49am

    AT&T trying to find out if Murdoch unduly influenced the DOJ is kind of like the pot trying to find out if the kettle is black.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 16 Nov 2017 @ 3:38pm

      Re:

      Hey, he has more undue influence than meeeee!

      They are like dangerously sophisticated children in the back seat of the car. Only they also have steering wheels.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer
Anonymous number for texting and calling from Hushed. $25 lifetime membership, use code TECHDIRT25
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.