While AT&T, DT and the Justice Department are all expected in court for a pre-trial scheduling conference today, Reuters is reporting that the Justice Department has decided it doesn’t need to explain its decision to bring a lawsuit forward to stop the AT&T/T-Mobile deal. In a letter sent Monday to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fed Upton, the Department of Justice said it could not disclose non-public information while the matter is in active litigation.
Sharing information outside of the judicial process creates “the risk that the public and the courts will perceive undue political and Congressional influence over litigation decisions,” Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich said in the letter.
However, the Justice Department did explain in its letter that it has considered the benefits of the deal as explained by AT&T and T-Mobile but that those benefits did not outweigh the negative impact this deal could have on consumers, the market and competition.
“Moreover, the Department observed that AT&T could obtain substantially the same network enhancements that it claims will come from the transaction if it simply invested in its own network without eliminating a close competitor,” the letter said.
During today’s pre-trial scheduling conference AT&T will ask for an expedited trial while the DOJ wants a hearing during Spring of 2012.
While AT&T has certainly suffered setbacks most analysts agree that the deal is hardly dead for AT&T. According to The Washington Post the company has spent over $11 million dollars in the first six months of 2011 lobbying employing 99 lobbyists. AT&T launched an advertising blitz this week in Washington newspapers that explained the benefits of this deal and calling out Sprint directly for its anti-competitive stance on the deal.
“AT&T has so many tools at their disposal to try to make their voice heard,” said Michael Beckel, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics. “We still see AT&T fighting hard and bringing a lot of their resources to their merger fight.”