The U.S. Department of Justice sued Monday to prevent the $85.4 billion takeover of Time Warner by AT&T. The merger “would greatly harm American consumers,” said Makan Delrahim, head of the antitrust division, adding it would lead to higher monthly television bills and “fewer of the newer, emerging innovative options that consumers are beginning to enjoy.” AT&T begged to differ. David R. McAtee II, senior EVP and general counsel, called the DOJ lawsuit “a radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent,” and said AT&T expects the Court to reject the government’s claims.
Before taking his position in September, Delrahim said last year the merger did not appear to pose “a major antitrust problem.” However, during recent talks he urged the companies to sell Turner Broadcasting or DirecTV, which AT&T declined to do. Although President Trump’s objections to the deal (and fury at Turner’s “fake news” net CNN) has some questioning whether the lawsuit is politically motivated, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that she is “not aware of any specific action” taken by the White House regarding the matter.