"I don't understand why the Time Warner deal isn't already done," former AT&T Mobility and Consumer Operations CEO Glenn Lurie told Android Headlines, adding that there's no reason for the transaction to be delayed by the regulators. "This is a vertical merger that doesn't take out any competition from the market," the recently appointed CEO of B2B service provider Synchronoss said, thus effectively repeating the stance on the matter taken by AT&T's current leadership. While acknowledging his bias stemming from over two decades spent at the second largest mobile service provider in the United States, Mr. Lurie said the Department of Justice's decision to attempt blocking the move is largely unprecedented and unwarranted.
AT&T has been trying to conclude its proposed purchase of the entertainment giant since late 2016, with the deal itself being worth approximately $85.4 billion. Following a lengthy review, the DOJ opted to file a lawsuit against the merger in November, citing antitrust concerns. Vertical consolidations historically had little issues with receiving regulatory approval in the U.S. and the former Obama administration allowed a similar move in 2011 when it cleared Comcast's proposed acquisition of NBCUniversal. Despite the Republican party traditionally being more lenient toward major mergers, President Trump's administration is now adamant to block the deal, with AT&T claiming its legal defense is strong and being confident that the consolidation will survive judicial scrutiny. The Dallas, Texas-based wireless carrier was forced to delay its deadline for the conclusion of the acquisition on several occasions, with its latest estimate suggesting the purchase will be completed in mid-2018. The dispute between AT&T and the DOJ is set to move to trial on March 19th and won't be affected by the recent government shutdown, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon revealed earlier this week.
Previous reports suggested AT&T suspects White House involvement in regards to its setback, with President Trump's public clashes with Time Warner-owned CNN being cited as a possible root of the issue. The federal agency repeatedly denied such notions, claiming the decision to sue against the telecom giant's merger attempt was made in an autonomous manner. The DOJ reportedly wasn't satisfied with AT&T's cooperation during its review of the transaction, primarily due to the wireless carrier's supposed unwillingness to consider selling either its recently purchased DIRECTV unit or divesting Time Warner's Turner following the acquisition.