Judge Sets Court Date For AT&T vs Department Of Justice Showdown

We had a pretty good idea going into today that the AT&T/Department of Justice pre-hearing appearance before the Judge wasn’t going to yield much more than a court date. That’s exactly what happened as U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle set aside six weeks for the non-jury trial set to take place on February 13th, 2012. The date falls right in the middle of the governments hope for a March 19th trial date and AT&T’s request for a January 16th date. Lawyers for both AT&T and the Justice Department said the matter was unlikely to take six weeks.

AT&T hoped that the Judge would issue the earlier court date by insisting they were “already months beyond where we want to be.”

Sprint, who has separately sued to block the AT&T/T-Mobile deal saw Justice Huvelle refuse to consolidate their lawsuit with the Department of Justice case.

The next court appearance will be October 24th over arguments for AT&T’s request to dismiss the case with the Judge pledging to decide that issue “as swiftly as possible.”

Reuters

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  • Frustrated

    Does this mean with the Sprint case not being consolidated with the DOJ case, it was thrown out, or there will be another court case regarding Sprint’s case?

    • Tbyrne

      You know what they say: What goes on behind closed doors! They better do what’s right for the consumer but history shows that’s not always the case.

  • My2Cents

    Just to clarify if you read the Reuters article the October 24th court date is to determine whether or not Sprints anti-trust lawsuit would move forward or be dismissed.  Not the DOJ’s.  Might want to clear that up in your summary.

  • IgetIT

    The Judge pretty much told Sprint to butt out of her case.  Go judge! 

    Sprint: Sit down and STFU

    • Bruce Banner

      You should sit down and stfu as well. It sounds as is you are for the takeover. If you want att you don’t need a takeover to join them, you can leave now.

    • http://profiles.google.com/brooklynboiz Jamille Browne

      And how did the judge do that exactly this is just about another trial

  • Silk7412

    From my understanding att was hoping the DOJ to back down and now with a date set. ATT knows this is not looking good for them.  Neither one got the date they wanted and now we do the waiting game again.

    • Anonymous

      The judge seems fair so far.  I think ATT has a 50/50 chance.  This thing can go either way at this point. 

  • Silk7412

    From my understanding att was hoping the DOJ to back down and now with a date set. ATT knows this is not looking good for them.  Neither one got the date they wanted and now we do the waiting game again.

  • Enrique Almaguer

    let me see my diamond ball and tell you whats going to happen, The Judge is going to get several brand new houses handed to her, and AT&T is going to win.

    • My2Cents

      Not everyone in government is corrupt.  I’m going to assume that this judge will do what she’s supposed to do.  Make rulings and judgements based on the law. 

      • Zifnab2k

        Not everyone, but almost everyone.

  • Anthonyc1a

    Well,l think att must go away ,and let t-mobile, be the way it its know,thanks DOJ,for your suport.

  • Anonymous

    USA! USA! USA!

  • Ali

    Everybody keep showing your disapproval!  With it being an election year and this falling right in line with the time the primary’s are going on, we CAN make a change!!!

  • Aristocrat

    Just because a lawmaker allows a takeover of T-Mobile by AT&T does not make them corrupt.  Not everyone shares the same viewpoint although I see some of you only care about your rate plans and not economic longevity of a company.  DT doesn’t want to be here for their own economic reasons yet the welfare babies want to govt. to force their hand. 

    It’s almost like having the govt. force someone to go out with you even though they really don’t want to. 

    Wireless is now global.  I don’t think the DOJ realizes this.  

    That is why AT&T will settle with the DOJ.  At that point I’d like to see all of you who are high and might anti-ATT to leave out of principle and go to Metro PCS where you belong. 

    • VoiceOFreason

      Agreed.  If I owned a business or a large share in a corporation the last thing I’d want is the US govt. telling me I have to remain in business to appease a small number of consumers who complain about high prices but refuse to go to other carriers who ironically offer services much cheaper.  

      For the price conscious crowd there is Net10, Metro PCS, TracFone, Boost, Virgin, Consumer Cellular, Jitterbug and not to mention Sprint Nextel.  

      • JBLMOBILEG1

        Did you know that two of those carriers you mentioned use At&t? Net 10 and TracFone. Most of the others use Sprint. Sprint is against this merger because it may force them to sell to Verizon. If this deal is passed then it would be hard to block the deal for Verizon to buy out Sprint. If that leaves two major carriers then most of the smaller ones will be using one of the larger carriers towers. This is why one of the regional carriers is speaking out. They are right it will cause roaming prices to be raised which will in turn cause those so called smaller carriers to close shop like Movida did…. or raise prices which Virgin Mobile has done recently with their two smaller monthly options.

        • JBLMOBILEG1

          On an added note did you know both At&t and Verizon offer unlimited on their prepaid plans for only $50 a month. That’s unlimited talk, text, and website for $50! The only reason they do that is to compete with the other prepaid carriers which some do actually use Tmobile. So once there are only two carriers left you can bet the last two major carriers will have control and do whatever they want. After all those roaming agreements expire eventually. Why do you think Straight Talk moved from most of their phones from using Verizon to now using At&t? Because they offered them better roaming rates. Oh and their newest Android phone uses Sprint because they offered them better data rates than both Verizon or At&t. So what happens when they are the only two carriers left. If you think the rates won’t go up your sadly mistaken. Verizon even followed At&t with their data caps. And $10 per each additional gb is a rip off. They already charge $25 and $30 for just 2gb which isn’t as much as you think. Not in today’s world.

        • Anonymous

          erm – no. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Tracfone / Straight talk only entered a relationship with Verizon long after their AT&T courtship. Tracfone never had access to Verizon’s EVDO network anyway (except for one phone – the finesse…which lasted all of a few months), so to bring Verizon into the discussion seems a little lame.
          Secondly; Tracfone’s relationship with AT&T is much deeper than merely getting better rates – AT&T have 24,5 % shares in AMX, Tracfone’s mothership company, ie, indirectly AT&T gain from Tracfone doing well. This bodes well for all the seniors running exclusively on AT&T’s network with their SVC phones. Also it bodes well for the honoring of reselling agreements – it won’t benefit AT&T at all to pinch the budget conscious companies.
          Thirdly: you might be right regarding the rip off prices of data, but you’d be a fool if you thought spectrum is a limitless resource.

      • Zifnab2k

        Rates aside, most of us are more are more irritated by the removal of a quality service to be taken over by a company that has never had good voice calling, and atrocious data. Everyone thinks it’s because poor people are crying the blues, when the reality is we’re crying the blues because ATT couldn’t run a network if google came in and set it up for them.

    • Nearmsp

      A lawmaker has no standing in this case now. The Anti-trust section in the Justice department is charged with the responsibility to enforce the laws of the United States. In this case they were of the opinion allowing AT&T to acquire T-mobile would reduce competition and increase prices. So they sued. The politicians (who would have received big money out of the $11.6 million AT&T ‘donated’ through 99 lobbyists) are keen to curry favor with AT&T. But now that the case has not settled there is nothing that can be done. As far as your comment “That is why AT&T will settle with the DOJ. ” The time for that is over. The only “settlement” that is possible is for AT&T to withdraw the offer to buy T-mobile. Additionally DT is  NOT wanting out. It will own 8% of AT&T once the deal is done plus get $39 billion in cash. No one is a welfare baby. I would say the typical T-mobile customer is some one who thinks independently and  is a discerning customer who does not put up with crappy service (hint – AT&T!) or want to pay above market price for service. That said what is YOUR problem here? You are free to move to AT&T now! You don’t have to wait for a merger to become part of AT&T. 

    • Nearmsp

      A lawmaker has no standing in this case now. The Anti-trust section in the Justice department is charged with the responsibility to enforce the laws of the United States. In this case they were of the opinion allowing AT&T to acquire T-mobile would reduce competition and increase prices. So they sued. The politicians (who would have received big money out of the $11.6 million AT&T ‘donated’ through 99 lobbyists) are keen to curry favor with AT&T. But now that the case has not settled there is nothing that can be done. As far as your comment “That is why AT&T will settle with the DOJ. ” The time for that is over. The only “settlement” that is possible is for AT&T to withdraw the offer to buy T-mobile. Additionally DT is  NOT wanting out. It will own 8% of AT&T once the deal is done plus get $39 billion in cash. No one is a welfare baby. I would say the typical T-mobile customer is some one who thinks independently and  is a discerning customer who does not put up with crappy service (hint – AT&T!) or want to pay above market price for service. That said what is YOUR problem here? You are free to move to AT&T now! You don’t have to wait for a merger to become part of AT&T. 

      • MIKEEEEE

        nearmsp, att has a habit of erecting towers as close as possible to legislator’s home and vacation residences, no dropped calls for our pampered pets.

    • Zifnab2k

      Well aren’t you a snooty little douche no doubt born to a rich family and never worked for anything in your life. There’s other factors besides just wanting a cheaper rate plan. But why get into it, you obviously judge anyone not willing to pay $150 /mo per line a poor welfare baby, so talking to you would be pointless.

    • BigMixxx

      What?  
      “Wireless is now global…”

      Of course it is.  The DOJ does realize it.  That’s the whole point of the injunction to block it.  Please take a few precious moments to think:

        AT&T will dominate the market for a LONG time.  This will promote Verizon would have no choice but to buy sprint (to quote the verizon CEO, ‘The AT&T merger with T-Mobile is kind of like gravity, it had to occur’…well…Sprint and Verizon will happen because the precidence is there.  No doubt you would see an eventual merger of AT&T and Verizon, because money can be made…

      Your internet access is metered, across the board now.  ’Nobody uses more than 2 gig a month’ the man at AT&T said; such a fallacy.  This is the money making mechanism for all mobile phone companies these days.  Check the commercials you watch on a daily basis as it shows video chatting — data access, mobile apps — data access, etc.  This is the unmetered paradise that phone companies are enjoying.  T mobile offers best in class right now.

    • BigMixxx

      What?  
      “Wireless is now global…”

      Of course it is.  The DOJ does realize it.  That’s the whole point of the injunction to block it.  Please take a few precious moments to think:

        AT&T will dominate the market for a LONG time.  This will promote Verizon would have no choice but to buy sprint (to quote the verizon CEO, ‘The AT&T merger with T-Mobile is kind of like gravity, it had to occur’…well…Sprint and Verizon will happen because the precidence is there.  No doubt you would see an eventual merger of AT&T and Verizon, because money can be made…

      Your internet access is metered, across the board now.  ’Nobody uses more than 2 gig a month’ the man at AT&T said; such a fallacy.  This is the money making mechanism for all mobile phone companies these days.  Check the commercials you watch on a daily basis as it shows video chatting — data access, mobile apps — data access, etc.  This is the unmetered paradise that phone companies are enjoying.  T mobile offers best in class right now.

    • My2Cents

      You are a douche.  I’m sure you love Comcast as well. 

      • http://tmonews.com David

        Chipmunked!

    • http://twitter.com/droid1967 Droid 1967

      are you really that ignorant?
      1st what does welfare have to do with anything. in my opinion if your on welfare than you should not be allowed to own a cell phone.  if you dont have enough money for basic of life and need to take others money to support your self than you dont deserve luxuries.  But this has nothing to do with welfare.
      you can not get every service provider everywhere you are so that locks out this global theory. 

      and 3rd i guarantee if this takeover goes through i wont be around.  it has nothing to do with principle. it has to do with been there done that.  att has awful service with constant dropped calls. slow data speeds. as well as they dont care what you think and will tell you so. I had them for 6 years and their prices went up as their service (and bars) went down.   I still have my verizon account also(grandfatherd unlimited) as well as my g2x.  tmobile has great 4g(3g whatever 9down 3 up) where i live and has better phones that verizon had or had coming for a long time.  still waiting for a decent phone from verizon(no lte here now so easy to wait).  
      But since i am actually paying 2 carriers guess this welfare model goes out the window doesnt it.

      conclusion. people dont want this because they have been on att and experienced same thing as i did. and they also see the difference in tmobile already since this acquisition was announced.
      and this is not only my opinion even JD downgraded their customer service for the first time in how many years.

  • Voicestream007

    Can’t wait for T-Mobile to get bought out.  Can’t come soon enough.

    • Don’t LeaveMe

      Bitter Robert Dodson…

    • Mesorrt

      LOL–can’t wait to pay that higher bill!!! It is exciting!

    • Tbyrne

      Along with higher prices no doubt. Sigh……..

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  • TMoFan

    I think everyone has at&t/t-mobile takeover fatigue!

    This judge seems fair but what worries me about her is that she likes to move fast and that could be to the benefit of at&t. If the DoJ is successful in proving that this should be looked at on the national level (as it should) at&t is going to have a hard time overcoming that. Taking out one of four of the national carriers is a big deal.

    So I wonder if the suits filed by the states and Cellular South are separate? I thought they were just piggybacking off of the DoJ suit.

  • wsj

    I think most you you to read the DOJ lawsuit and the appendex regarding market power.  In all but 5 markets at&t is presumed to have market power.  This is going to be difficult for at&t to get around.

  • wsj

    I think most you you to read the DOJ lawsuit and the appendex regarding market power.  In all but 5 markets at&t is presumed to have market power.  This is going to be difficult for at&t to get around.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AWWIKW6MNPUHOC4OVSHWUDWAHM Fabio

    Wow this is hilarious, it’s deja vu all over again… United States v. AT&T Inc, geez they should just walk away, they’re clearly going to lose. History repeats itself, 1980s here we go again!

    • MIKEEEEE

      fabio, they won’t simply walk away, their lawyers will convince the executives that they can win. just keep paying us for all billable hours.

      in a case like this there is no contingency fee, just billable hours, cha ching.

  • jon

    If there are any law experts in here tell me if my theory is right. In denying sprints request to piggyback on the case, the judge actually hurt at&t. And here’s why…If she had allowed sprint, she would have had to let all other carriers piggyback as well. If that happended at&t would be able to argue its case in a “market by market” basis; which is what at&t wanted. By the judge keeping this between the DOJ and at&t, the case will be looked at with a broader scope; which is what the DOJ wants (4 national carriers; anti-trust)…am I wrong here?

    • GinaDee

      No Sprint would drag on the case and almost ensure the case actually goes to trial.  

      AT&T has convinced the Judge that a drawn out proceeding could have negative financial impacts on the company and the Judge is known for speedy rulings anyway so it worked out. 

      Although I’m for the buyout whatever happens should happen fast.  The longer this draws out the more harm will come to T-Mobile USA as an organization on so many levels.  The industry needs to move on and get back to creating, competing, expanding, hiring and growing.  

      • jon

        Yes, dragging out hurts tmob; without a doubt. But I wonder if at&t wants to speed things up due to the breakup fee. We all know tmob can back away and demand the breakup fee in sept of 2012, but it was reported they may not have to pay if the deal is dropped prior to a certain date. I’m more curious to know when that date is. That date is when at&t has to decide whether or not the are really going ‘all-in’ over this..

      • jon

        Yes, dragging out hurts tmob; without a doubt. But I wonder if at&t wants to speed things up due to the breakup fee. We all know tmob can back away and demand the breakup fee in sept of 2012, but it was reported they may not have to pay if the deal is dropped prior to a certain date. I’m more curious to know when that date is. That date is when at&t has to decide whether or not the are really going ‘all-in’ over this..

  • Billy

    How does the FCC’s “Shot clock” fit into all of this.  It expires before the court date.

    • Susanki

      That is interesting.  The FCC is separate from the DOJ–it can deny licenses for spectrum transfer on its own.

      • Billy

        They backed the DOJ position when it was announced.  DOJ didn’t settle and are holding to the suit.  Wonder if that means the FCC will hold that position when the clock runs out.

  • Jken

    Tmobile can’t break off from DT on it’s own because DT owns the name and the entire operation.  They created it.  Tmobile is all over Europe.  T-mobile USA could possibly spin off but would be required to use a different name–most unlikely.

  • Wilma Flintstone

    Just wondering why they picked the day before Valentine’s Day to settle this once and for all?  Are they planning a Valentine’s Day of a Company?  Sure hope not.  (People that know the REAL meaning of Valentine’s Day will understand this)

    • My2Cents

      That date is just the start of the trial.  The trial could potentially last months from that date.  Plus if AT&T wins in court the FCC would still have to make their decision. 

  • Anonymous

    wow, another five more months of waiting. 

    This should be great for T-mobile USA’s health as a company.  If the breakup fee gets paid out, they’re going to need it.

    • Spooln3

      FYI, that money goes to DT, not TMo USA. The deal is with DT for TMo USA not with TMo USA.

      • Anonymous

        Regardless of whether DT gets the money directly, T-mobile USA will be propped up until DT can exit from the market.  Letting the whole T-mobile USA property go would be even worse decision since it’s still profitable right now.  The spectrum will more than likely go to T-mobile USA and will probably make it easier to sell the overall company.

        The point i was making was that another 5 months of this is going to really eat at T-mobile USA whether they get the breakup free or not. Customers and employees both don’t know what’s going on and will just add confusion in the marketplace. I could see a lot of employees and customers try to jump ship from T-mobile USA rather than deal with the ambiguity.

      • jon

        The idea that DT is going to drive tmob into the ditch is horse sh!t. T-Mobile has already commited to pay its employees 75% of that signing bonus that at&t would have paid if the deal falls apart. They pledged to do this because they care for their employees and appreciate the ones that are ‘sticking this out’. I would assume the cash used to pay these bonuses to every employee would come from the 3billion in cash. They will certainly use that cash to enhance tmob and make it attractive to another suitor; that is if they still want to sell. The other 3billion comes in the form of spectrum and a roaming agreement. That can only be used on tmob.

  • Jen Madden

    The DOJ has said today that this lawsuit is not a negotiating tactic and the goal is to stop the takeover, not make att give up concessions. That sort of flies in the face of what some people have said around here.

  • ItsMichaelNotMike

    For those wanting to know how this all works and has worked so far, permit me to explain:

    - As I said before, Clayton Act cases do not have a jury, therefore this is a “court trial” meaning the Judge is the “jury” and she will be deciding the case.

    This is significant in this case because, as I mentioned, IMO this particular Judge is consumer oriented. She is also a Clinton nominee. AT&T would rather have had a pro business Bush or Reagan nominee, for sure.

    - Consistent with all federal Judges, the Court has severely limited discovery. And because this is what I call a “documents case,” meaning most of the proof will be from paper generated from both sides, the Judge has set forth strict requirements on the parties exchange of documents and dictated how discovery will proceed.

    - As usual, a Protective Order has been issued in the case, so don’t expect to see many documents or information revealed before trial. But since trials are public, an actual trial should yield some interesting information. (Moreover, since parties can’t lie or simply spew talking points at a trial, and because the Judge as fact finder will ask witnesses questions, the trial will be interesting to follow.)

    - It is interesting that the Judge did not consolidate the Sprint, Cellular South or other lawsuits into this action (Cell South may be too recent for the Judge to rule on joining that suit to the DOJ action).

    IMO this is a problem for AT&T because any one action on its own can prevent this deal from going forward. In other words, even if AT&T won the DOJ action, the other cases would have to be dealt with, in court or via settlements.

    - But, the Judge NOT joining the Sprint action, for example, may be an indication that the Judge is inclined to dismiss all those cases (feeling that the DOJ is the only one who has standing to bring an anti-trust case, private parties cannot).

    The Judge may also rule that Sprint, Cellular South and others can simply proceed on their lawsuits and obtain money damages suffered as a result of the acquisition. If that’s the Judge’s feeling, Sprint and others cannot win money damages until they have been damaged. Obviously, they have not been damaged unless the deal goes through, and the parties can calculate damages caused by the acquisition.

    - As I said before, media misinterpreted this conference as being significant because the court supposedly ordered the parties to be ready to discuss settlement. That was a total bullsheet conclusion for the media to report. All the court said was to be ready to discuss the client’s posture on settlement, a meaningless generic phrase that Judges put in their orders.

    At the case management (status) conference settlement of the case never came up.

    - Most federal trials are set to take place about a year to 18 months after the initial complaint is filed. This one is set quite soon. This is an accommodation to AT&T wanting a decision one way or another, so it can move on or proceed with the deal, and because this is a court trial.

    Other than that I would not read anything into the trial date. This Judge is known as one who moves cases along and  sets early trial dates. Moreover, since this is not a jury trial, the days required can be cut in half.

  • ItsMichaelNotMike

    How might this “showdown” end up? Here’s my reflections:

    First, the contestants:

     

    - The DOJ (representing us): It does not lose many
    anti-trust cases. So much so that many deals are cancelled on the DOJ simply
    filing suit.

     

    As with any large bureaucracy, there’s those attorneys
    within DOJ who could file suit on the belief that “Hey, were are the DOJ,
    so you might as well cave and settle.” On a case this significant,
    however, I have no doubt the DOJ’s most senior attorneys round tabled this
    before filing.

     

    Moreover, the DOJ has a lot of experience before Judge
    Huvelle and it learns from losses and caters the litigation to the way this Judge
    thinks.

     

    E.g., in 2001 the DOJ lost a case because Judge Huvelle
    ruled that the defendant PROVED large numbers of consumers had other options in
    the relevant markets.

     

    Judge Huvelle also REJECTED the DOJ’s “overly narrow
    and static” product market definition, the Judge concluding that the
    parties conflicting evidence and broad diversity of the parties’ customer base
    did not support the DOJ’s generalizations about customer behavior.

     

    - AT&T: It has money to burn, so it can put a lot of
    money into the battle and is not concerned if it loses. So it figures
    “what the hell” might as well see how the Judge rules.  They rather see how things work out at trial.

     

    Moreover, as most people are aware, AT&T has significant
    experience in defending anti-trust cases.

     

    So I don’t see them caving or settling.

     

    - DT: It does care what happens, the Company really wants
    that $39 billion and it wants out of the U.S.
    market. DT knows that if the AT&T acquisition falls through that it will be
    lucky to find a suitor for 1/3 the price AT&T is offering to pay.
    (Especially since as time goes on TMOUS is losing value.)

     

    So DT will do whatever is necessary to get the deal done and
    dance to AT&T’s tune. When AT&T commands “JUMP!” DT will
    simply inquire “How high sir?” 
    And DT is being hyper-vigilant to assure that it does not give reason
    for AT&T to legally back out of the deal or avoid paying the break-up fee.

    Crystal Balling:

     

    You all have common sense (well, some of you do) and could well
    sit on a jury in this case, if a jury trial was allowed (it is not). So you can
    decide the case just as well as the Judge (acting as a jury) will issue a ruling. So what does YOUR gut tell you?

     

    My money is on this case going to trial unless AT&T makes
    billion dollar concessions to all concerned. Concessions to Sprint, Metro PCS and
    others would have to be sufficient to make them viable competitors against AT&T
    and Verizon.

     

    AT&T would have to agree to end handset exclusivity deals
    (so that the smaller carriers can get better handsets too) and probably have to
    agree to cease its anti-consumer plan and handset practices (e.g. tiered data pricing).