Judge grants stay in antitrust case as AT&T rethinks T-Mobile deal
U.S. District Ellen Segal Huvelle on Monday granted a stay in the government's antitrust lawsuit that is seeking to block AT&T Inc.'s $39-billion purchase of T-Mobile USA.
The move to postpone pre-trial activity until mid-January came after AT&T and Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile's German parent, joined the Justice Department in asking for the stay earlier in the day. The companies said Monday they were "actively considering whether and how to revise" the telecommunications deal. A trial in the case had been scheduled for February.
Huvelle's order said the companies must provide by Jan. 12 a report "describing the status of their proposed transaction, including discussion of whether they intend to proceed with the transaction at issue in this litigation, [and] whether they intend to proceed with another transaction."
AT&T and Deutsche Telekom also must provide their plans to seek regulatory approval from the Federal Communications Commission. Huvelle will hold a hearing on the case six days later.
AT&T had withdrawn its application with the FCC after the agency's staff issued a report last month that found the deal was not in the public interest. The Justice Department cited that withdrawal in a hearing on Friday, arguing that the lawsuit no longer needed to be expedited. The antitrust case is scheduled for a February trial.
AT&T and Deutsche Telekom said they asked for the stay "to evaluate all options."
Public Knowledge, a consumer advocacy group that opposes the deal, said AT&T and Deutsche Telekom should pull the plug.
"We hope that AT&T will take the contemplative time over the holidays to realize that it should now call the transaction to an orderly halt," said Harold Feld, the group's legal director. "It is time for AT&T to end this now and save everyone a lot of time and money for a case it cannot win."
-- Jim Puzzanghera in Washington