The U.S. government sued to block AT&T Inc.’s proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA Inc., saying the deal would “substantially lessen competition” in the wireless market.
The Justice Department complaint was filed today in federal court in Washington. The U.S. is seeking a declaration that Dallas-based AT&T’s takeover of T-Mobile, a unit of Deutsche Telekom AG (DTE), would violate U.S. antitrust law and a court order blocking any arrangement implementing the deal.
“AT&T’s elimination of T-Mobile as an independent, low-priced rival would remove a significant competitive force from the market,” the U.S. said in its filing.
This is certainly good news for consumers, but this story stands out to me for another reason. In thinking about the record the Department of Justice has compiled over the last two-and-a-half years, this may well be the single most activist move Attorney General Eric Holder has made in that time. I'm hard-pressed to come up with any other action nearly as aggressive, and I don't want to get my hopes up about this one, either, because a limp settlement is always possible.
But if by any chance this signals a new posture for the DoJ in this and other arenas, it would not only be good for ordinary Americans, it would also be smart politics. Let's see what happens.
P.S. You can read the DoJ's full press release here.
9:32 AM PT: The FCC sounds like it agrees with the DoJ. From their press release:
"By filing suit today, the Department of Justice has concluded that AT&T's acquisition of T-Mobile would substantially lessen competition in violation of the antitrust laws. Competition is an essential component of the FCC's statutory public interest analysis, and although our process is not complete, the record before this agency also raises serious concerns about the impact of the proposed transaction on competition."