This ends a lengthy antitrust saga that began with AT&T and Time Warner’s merger announcement over two years ago in October 2016. Following an in-depth investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division (DOJ) filed a complaint to block AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner in November 2017. Shortly after the district court decision in favor of AT&T in June 2018, the government confirmed that it would not seek to stay the merger pending an appeal and would allow AT&T to close its transaction on the condition that AT&T would continue to hold separate Turner networks (including Time Warner’s HBO, CNN, TBS, and TNT assets) through 28 February, 2019. The government filed a notice of appeal in July 2018.
On appeal, the government focused on the district court’s rejection of its “increased leverage” theory, which was only one of the three antitrust theories DOJ relied upon at trial. Since DOJ’s challenge was based on the district court’s factual conclusions rather than a pure question of law, the relevant standard of review was whether the decision was “clearly erroneous” in its application of facts—a very challenging criteria to meet.
Writing for a unanimous panel, Judge Judith Rogers rejected nearly all of the government’s objections to the district court’s factual findings and described DOJ’s arguments as “unpersuasive.” Following the decision, DOJ released a statement confirming that it would not seek further appeal.
Click here to read the key takeaways from the opinion.