AT&T settled a Justice Department (DOJ) investigation into the carrier’s $2.8 billion acquisition of regional wireless provider Dobson Communications by agreeing to pay $2 million for alleged non-compliance with court orders that required AT&T to divest overlapping assets in three markets to gain DOJ approval of the transaction. Approved by the FCC in 2007, the AT&T-Dobson deal covered markets in 17 states and boosted AT&T’s subscriber count by 1.7 million, solidifying AT&T’s position at that time as the nation’s largest wireless carrier. (Earlier this month, Verizon Wireless surpassed AT&T as the nation’s top wireless company as Verizon completed its $28 billion acquisition of Alltel.) At the heart of the DOJ investigation is a consent decree that was entered by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in March 2008 and that required AT&T-Dobson to divest overlapping mobile wireless assets in two Kentucky rural service areas (RSAs) and in one Oklahoma RSA. Under the terms of that decree, AT&T was required “to take all steps necessary to ensure that the divested businesses were operated independently of AT&T and that AT&T did not exert any influence over their management.” According to DOJ investigators, AT&T violated the consent decree by failing to separate confidential customer account information attached to the divested assets from its own records, thus enabling AT&T employees to obtain “unauthorized access to the divested businesses’ competitively sensitive customer information” and to use that data “to solicit and win away the divested businesses’ customers.” The proposed settlement, which requires court approval, would cover the cost of the DOJ investigation, in which the FCC also participated. Emphasizing that the settlement involves “no admission or determination of wrongdoing,” an AT&T spokesman said, “we take seriously our obligation to comply with consent decrees and are happy to have this matter resolved.”