AT&T Accuses Justice Department of Trying to ‘run Out the Clock' on Time Warner Deal

As it faces the Justice Department's antitrust lawsuit, Dallas-based AT&T has hit yet another snag with the federal government over the embattled Time Warner merger: The two parties can't agree to a court date.AT&T would like the trial to be in mid-February and the government would like the trial to be in early May, according to court documents filed by AT&T on Tuesday. In the court filing, AT&T said it exchanged phone calls with the government, but could not agree to a trial date.AT&T is now asking the court to push for the earlier date. In it's court filing, AT&T argued that it's waited long enough to merge the two companies. It's been 14 months since AT&T and Time Warner formally agreed to the deal on Oct. 22, 2016. Since then, the companies have been waiting for the government to wrap up its review and have had to extend their own merger deadline twice. The deadline is now April 22, or 18 months later, the maximum time allowed by AT&T and Time Warner's agreement.If the trial started in May, AT&T noted in the filing, it would be after the merger's expiration date. That could put the deal in jeopardy, since either party could "terminate the merger agreement unilaterally," the company said."The Government's contention that the parties can simply extend the merger deadline unjustifiably disregards the risks and uncertainty inherent in any renegotiation of a complex agreement affecting numerous stakeholders," AT&T said. "It is not reasonable for the Government to subject the merger to these risks merely because it would prefer — despite its enormous head start — more time to litigate and try this case."And, AT&T said, by pushing the trial to May, the government "could effectively run out the clock on this merger without ever having to prove its case."The Justice Department could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.AT&T filed the court documents about a week after the Justice Department sued AT&T to block the merger with media and entertainment company Time Warner. The deal is valued at $108.7 billion, including debt.AT&T is seeking to transform its business by adding prized news and entertainment content, including HBO, CNN and Warner Bros., which all fall under Time Warner.Critics say the merger would give AT&T too much power by allowing it to both own and distribute content. But AT&T argues that other similar mergers have been approved, such as NBCUniversal and Comcast.   Continue reading...

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