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Justice Dept. Gives AT&T-Time Warner Judge a Way Out

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May 1, 2018, 8:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @zeman_e
updated May 1, 2018, 10:08 AM

The Justice Department, during closing arguments of its case against the AT&T-Time Warner merger, suddenly suggested the judge weigh "alternative" remedies should he choose not to block the deal. The Justice Department has fought against the merger from the start, saying AT&T would use Time Warner's content as a weapon against consumers, raising prices and limiting competition. Throughout the six-week trial, however, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon has seemed skeptical of the Justice Department's case. In a surprise twist, Justice Department attorney Craig Conrath took advantage of his closing arguments to suggest Leon take at least some protective measures. If Leon chooses to allow the deal to proceed, Conrath asked that the judge force AT&T to divest part of Time Warner in order to close the deal — specifically Turner Networks. Time Warner generates television and movie content and is separate from Time Warner Cable, which provides cable TV and internet service in New York. This deal is just for Time Warner the content company. Conrath also suggested that AT&T be forced to make "structural" alterations to minimize the deal's effect on customers. The Justice Department had already asked AT&T for divestures. It refused, saying such requirements weren't necessary. AT&T insists it needs to acquire Time Warner in order to compete with Verizon Communications. The judge said he will announce his decision at a hearing on June 12.

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