Clearing Antitrust Hurdles with Groundbreaking Economic Analysis
AT&T was a regional player in the video business facing relatively high programming costs compared to its larger cable competitors. DIRECTV was a national satellite video provider that was finding it increasingly difficult to compete with cable bundles that included video and internet access. AT&T agreed to acquire DIRECTV, but needed regulatory clearance from the Department of Justice and the FCC.
As the lead antitrust counsel for AT&T at DOJ, we worked with the broader legal team to develop a strategy of emphasizing the benefits of combining complementary products – video and broadband – into consumer-friendly bundles. The team commissioned cutting-edge economic analysis that demonstrated the benefits to competition outweighed any possible harm from eliminating video-only competition. We also used the old-fashioned approach of using key documents on both sides to show that the companies were not particularly close competitors.
In July 2015, the Justice Department cleared the transaction unconditionally. The FCC approved it with certain conditions. The transaction closed on July 24, and the companies quickly turned to deliver the benefits of integration to consumers.