Will Trump's Administration Block AT&T/Time Warner Merger?

By William Vogeler, Esq. on June 22, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

President Trump, who opposed the merger of AT&T and Time Warner when he was a presidential candidate, has not tweeted a thing about it since then.

And despite opposition from key Democrats in Washington, the proposed merger looks as likely to occur as it did when the companies announced their plan last October. That's not a prediction, just a statement of the moment.

A lot has happened on the track to the powerhouse merger since last year, but no one has stopped the train.

Just Say, Oh No

Democratic senators, led by Al Franken (D-Minn), have urged the Justice Department to block AT&T's plan to purchase Time Warner for $85.4 billion. The senators said the "combined company's unmatched control" of content and distribution will lead to higher prices, fewer choices, and lower quality of services.

Among its other media, Time Warner owns HBO, CNN, and Turner Broadcasting System. AT&T, with 21 million DirecTV subscribers and four million U-verse TV subscribers, is the country's largest pay-TV provider. It is also one of the biggest home and mobile broadband companies.

"Combining these behemoths would create a mega media conglomerate with both the incentive and the ability to favor its own content over that of other entertainment companies and to restrict competing video distributors from accessing that content, harming its competitors and ultimately consumers," the senators said.

The Justice Department could sue to block the merger, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions tacitly dismissed that possibility prior to his appointment earlier this year.

Pause and Rewind

While some presidential advisers were opposing the merger, Sessions was not on board. During his confirmation hearing, he deflected questions about Trump's statement that it put "too much concentration of power in the hands of too few."

At the time, Trump was feuding with Time Warner's CNN, and some on Wall Street viewed his comments as pay back. Sessions, when asked about anti-trust concerns that arise from such megadeals, said it would be "wrong to further some other separate discreet agenda that's not reasonably connected to the merger itself."

Meanwhile, Trump's FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the commission would not review the proposed merger. According to reports, it signaled a clear path for the deal.

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