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Department of Justice and FCC voice support for T-Mobile and Sprint’s merger in new court filing


In the midst of the T-Mobile-Sprint merger trial, both the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission have reiterated their support for the deal.

Both the DOJ and FCC have filed court papers saying that the states’ lawsuit to block the merger would undo consumer benefits that were gained by the government during its review of T-Mobile and Sprint’s deal. One example given by the agencies is improved service in rural parts of the country. The DOJ and FCC both formally approved the T-Mobile-Sprint merger earlier this year.

“Both agencies bring a nationwide perspective to their analysis of the transaction that the litigating states lack,” the DOJ and FCC said in their filing.

In other merger news, the trial has revealed how DOJ antitrust chief Makan Delrahim worked behind the scenes to help push the deal along. Text messages submitted as evidence in the trial show that in June, Delrahim told Dish Network co-founder Charlie Ergen, “Today would be a good day to have your Senator friends contact the chairman,” referring to FCC chairman Ajit Pai. Ergen said that he asked Colorado senator Cory Gardner to speak with Pai and that he also spoke to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.

Other messages submitted as evidence in the trial show that Delrahim helped coordinate meetings between Ergen, T-Mobile CEO John Legere, and Sprint chairman Marcelo Claure. “I anticipate being part of the meeting and then leaving it to you guys to hash out details as needed,” Delrahim told Ergen about Legere in one message.

The messages also show that T-Mobile and Sprint execs sometimes got frustrated with Ergen when he said he needed time to get Dish’s board to approve parts of their deal with T-Mobile and Sprint. And at one point when Dish sought funding from SoftBank (majority owner of Sprint) for the deal, T-Mo CEO John Legere said to Ergen, “You’ve crossed the line. For full disclosure (which may be a new term to you) I have told Makan I don’t believe you are serious about doing a deal.”

As noted by Inner City Press on Twitter, the trial wrapped up testimonies today, so Judge Victor Marrero got things done quickly like he wanted. The next big event in the trial will happen on January 8th when each side can submit 30-page filings of proposed findings of facts and of law. Then on January 15th there will be four hours of final arguments.

Sources: Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Reuters, Inner City Press (Twitter)

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