AT&T, T-Mobile Merger Suffers Another Delay From DOJ

Posted by · December 9, 2011 11:58 am

To say that the merger deal between AT&T and T-Mobile is encountering a significant deal of regulatory resistance would be an understatement. Now in the tenth month since the merger plans were first announced, the deal between the No. 2 and No. 4 wireless telecoms seems to be slowly but surely making its way to a grinding halt.

After withdrawing their merger application from the Federal Communications Commission to better confront the Justice Department’s legal opposition to the deal, the duo is now facing yet another hurdle. And based on the current trend of the situation, it well may end up being the fatal blow to the merger.

Friday morning, Joseph Wayland, the lead attorney for the Justice Department, announced plans to urge U.S. District Court Judge Ellen S. Huvelle to stay the proceedings against AT&T and T-Mobile. This likely comes as a strategic move by the DOJ after its pressure on the companies ultimately led to the withdrawal of their FCC application.

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal’s law blog, the companies’ decision to rescind their FCC application caused a considerable amount of frustration for Judge Huvelle on Friday.

In fact, the U.S. District Court judge called AT&T’s approach to the matter “presumptuous,” accusing the wireless companies of attempting to “use” the trial as a means of persuading the FCC to eventually authorize the merger.

Turning to T-Mobile, Judge Huvelle continued, “At this moment, [the DOJ] does not think you are a serious opponent without an application at the FCC. Don’t you understand that his ‘strategy’ has a slight aura of using the court?”

Needless to say, Judge Huvelle is not interested in having her court used as a means of buying favor with the FCC.

Responding to the judge’s concerns, AT&T general counsel Wayne Watts said in a statement, “We are anxious to bring to the American consumer the benefits of increased wireless network capacity and efficiencies that can only arise from combining the resources of AT&T and T-Mobile USA.”

Considering the anxiety that the proposed deal appears to be causing AT&T, perhaps it’s a sign that the merger simply shouldn’t go through, making the Justice Department’s plan to withdraw its suit until the companies deal with the FCC a non-issue.

Either that, or maybe Watts meant to say that AT&T is eager to serve American consumers.