Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice has been pushing the division for faster merger reviews. Six months is a good benchmark, provided that the parties cooperated quickly, he told the Media Institute last week. He says the DOJ is consistently meeting or beating that time-frame.
So, what does he think of the pace of the proposed T-Mobile-Sprint merger? He warned of a recent development – the possibility of third parties undercutting federal enforcement decisions. That could happen in this proposed deal, according to Delrahim.
Delrahim’s referring to the Antitrust Division and 10 states that have a proposed settlement pending before District Court in Washington, D.C. If approved by the court, that settlement would allow T-Mobile and Sprint to merge, but would require substantial divestitures to DISH. “We agreed to this settlement because it meets the twin goals of antitrust remedies: it allows consumers to benefit from the efficiencies associated with the merger, while protecting consumers from the harms that would otherwise come from a lessening of competition.”
He noted the FCC reviewed the transaction and determined it was in the public interest. The agency emphasized the anticipated impact on broadband in rural areas. It also found that the divestiture of Boost to DISH, in particular, will allow currently underutilized spectrum to be placed in the hands of consumers.
Both the DOJ and the FCC “negotiated nationwide relief” to prevent harm from the merger, he said. Yet what Delrahim called “a minority of states,” plus the District of Columbia, sued to block the deal and a decision is “highly” anticipated.
He called that “odd. Unfortunately, the scenario that has unfolded here is incompatible with the orderly operation of our antitrust merger laws and telecommunications regulations,” said Delrahim. “It creates the risk that a small subset of states, or even perhaps just one, could undermine beneficial transactions and settlements nationwide.”
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