On October 10, Special Master Judge Richard Levie ruled that American Airlines, Inc., and US Airways Group, Inc., are not entitled to most of the evidence that drove the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to block the $14 billion merger of these two airlines. The airlines wanted to know who the DOJ interviewed and what the DOJ learned from them during its analysis of the proposed merger, prior to initiating the blocking lawsuit. The DOJ had provided the airlines with a list of individuals likely to have discoverable information, but not whom they specifically interviewed and what they learned from the interviewees.
Special Master Levie was appointed to oversee discovery, including discovery disputes. Judge Levie recommended that the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia find this information protected under the opinion work product doctrine because the information an attorney chooses to record is almost certainly material that the attorney deems important to the case at hand, and disclosure might nonetheless reveal the attorney’s thought processes and mental impressions of the case.
The airlines also sought documents that led the DOJ not to challenge four previous airline mergers. Although he believed the airlines met their burden of showing the requested information was relevant, Levie recommended that the district court compel the DOJ to produce only one of the six requested documents.
On October 14, the airlines said they would not appeal the special master’s ruling.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s attorney general urged the DOJ to approve the merger and Texas’ attorney general reached a settlement with the airlines and dropped out of the lawsuit, leaving only the attorneys general of five states and Washington, D.C., in the lawsuit.