Major carrier AT&T's proposed tie-up with cable giant Time Warner has caught the attention of the United States Department of Justice, who has announced an antitrust lawsuit over the deal. The suit claims that the merger, as proposed, would harm consumers and stifle innovation. On these grounds, it has brought suit seeking to block the merger. For the time being, the merger has been blocked, and AT&T and Time Warner will need to submit an appeal for the merger to have a chance in its current form.
As things stand, AT&T and Time Warner could appeal the decision or modify the merger proposal in order to try again later, but the blockage could be damaging beyond simply keeping the two companies from pursuing the merger as they originally planned. A harbinger of this potential damage is already occurring; multiple outlets have been reporting on analyst input about the matter and Bloomberg's subsequent report of an anonymous insider saying that the Department of Justice is set to announce a suit, and Time Warner's stocks have suffered. AT&T's stocks faltered when reports of analysts predicting the deal going sour started hitting the presses, but did not take the same sharp nosedive of a full point that Time Warner did. Likewise, rumors of the Department's suit from an anonymous insider who spoke to Bloomberg brought stocks down and worries up. As of this writing, the announcement has been official for a little while, but does not seem to have had a major effect on after-hours trading.
AT&T and Time Warner had been flirting with the idea of a merger for quite some time, and finally made things official back in October of last year. Given the sheer size of the two companies involved and how they would benefit from the deal, it didn't take long for people – and more importantly, other companies and judicial bodies, to begin contemplating just how the deal would affect the industries around the two companies. It was speculated for a while that regulatory authorities may take a lax approach to this merger, given the Trump administration's seeming propensity to do so, but the United States Department of Justice seems to have simply waited until the last minute to throw in its input. Others have been taking smaller actions of their own in response to the impending merger, and it seems that the Department of Justice's interference was final push needed to grind proceedings to a halt until further notice.