The judge overseeing the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against AT&T and Time Warner’s merger has denied Walt Disney and Twenty-First Century Fox’s request for a strengthened protective order on sensitive information.
Fox and Disney handed over confidential data to the Justice Department, which is using it to build the case against AT&T’s proposed $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, but the companies are worried AT&T executives could inadvertently get a hold of it during the trial next year, according to Reuters.
“I’m going to deny that order,” Judge Richard Leon of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said.
The court, Justice Department lawyers and staff, service providers, and AT&T and Time Warner’s outside counsel had been given access to confidential information.
In late November the U.S. Department of Justice sued to block the deal, asserting the deal could harm American consumers and hinder competition. The Justice Department also raised concerns that AT&T could use its control over Time Warner’s popular networks, like HBO, CNN, and TBS, to force rivals to pay hundreds of millions of dollars more per year for distribution rights.
The No. 2 U.S. wireless operator, which also owns DirecTV, called the lawsuit “a radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent.”
Also this week, AT&T and Time Warner once again agreed to extend the deal deadline, this time until June 21, 2018, according to a Friday SEC filing.
The companies had previously extended the deadline until April 22, but at a pretrial hearing Judge Leon set a trial start date of March 19 and indicated a decision likely wouldn’t be reached until late April or May.
Filed Under: Industry regulations