California attorney general to join AT&T, T-Mobile antitrust suit
Updated with statement from Atty. Gen. Harris.
California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris has joined the U.S. Department of Justice in an antitrust suit opposing the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile.
“Our review of the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile has led me to conclude that it would hinder competition and reduce consumer choice," Harris said in a statment. "I look forward to working with the parties involved to resolve this matter in a way that will create jobs in our state, encourage a vibrant technology sector, and protect competition in the marketplace.”
“This is huge,” said Samuel Kang, general counsel for the Greenlining Institute, a Berkeley consumer group that advocates to provide better financial and utility services for low-income communities.
“We’re talking about the state’s top consumer advocate [Harris] questioning the merger. There are huge questions that have implications for the largest [cellphone] market in the United States.”
On Aug. 31, the U.S. Justice Department sued to challenge AT&T’s $39-billion takeover of T-Mobile USA Inc., based on worries that consumers would be hit with higher prices, worse wireless service and dwindling mobile phone options. Obama administration officials also said they were worried that the combination of the two companies would be a job killer.
The Justice lawsuit was followed a week later by a similar action by Sprint-Nextel Corp., which also sued to block the merger. Sprint, the third-largest wireless carrier behind Verizon Wireless and AT&T, stands to be marginalized if it is forced to compete with two far larger carriers, including a merged AT&T and T-Mobile.
On Thursday, a group of 15 Democratic members of Congress wrote to President Obama urging him to back off his opposition to the merger, saying it would create thousands of jobs. Critics have called that claim into question.
-- Marc Lifsher and David Sarno
Photo: California Atty Gen. Kamala Harris holds a news conference at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles just after she was elected in November, 2010. Credit: Brian van der Brug / LAT