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DOJ wants Turner properties spun off if AT&T deal is approved

Alternatively, it proposed AT&T sell DirecTV ahead of acquiring Time Warner.
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In 2016, AT&T announced plans to acquire Time Warner for $85.4 billion -- a deal that eventually led to a Department of Justice antitrust lawsuit filed in November of last year. The six-week trial resulting from that lawsuit wrapped up last week and now both sides have filed post-trial briefs as US District Judge Richard Leon prepares his decision. At the end of the trial, Leon suggested both parties work out remedies depending on which way he rules and in its post-trial brief that was unsealed today, the DOJ suggests AT&T be required to divest itself of major assets if the merger isn't blocked altogether.

"While blocking AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner in its entirety would completely eliminate the threat to competition posed by the proposed transaction," wrote the DOJ, "the court may order alternative structural remedies if it found that doing so would sufficiently reduce the risk of anticompetitive effects so as to redress the Section 7 violation." It goes on to say that much of the anticompetitive effects stem from the combination of Turner with DirecTV and the two, therefore, should be separated. The DOJ proposes that either AT&T not get Turner -- which holds CNN, TBS and TNT -- or that the company divest itself of DirecTV prior to acquiring Time Warner.

On its end, AT&T has maintained that the government hasn't effectively demonstrated that its merger with Time Warner would produce anticompetitive effects. And in regards to completing the deal without either Turner or DirecTV, it said, "Divestitures here would destroy the very consumer value this merger is designed to unlock."

Last year, prior to the lawsuit, reports surfaced that the DOJ had requested these same actions in order for AT&T to get the approval it sought. However, the agency later said that they had merely presented those divestitures as options and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson confirmed that he was never told by the DOJ that those would be the costs of getting the deal approved. Stephenson said at the time that the company had no intention of selling Turner, HBO, Warner Bros or DirecTV. "You shouldn't expect that we would sell something larger [than CNN] to get the deal done. It's illogical. It's why we did the deal," he said at a conference last November.

Leon is expected to make his decision on June 12th.

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