AT&T: We don't need FCC's approval to withdraw merger request
A day after AT&T withdrew its request to the Federal Communications Commission to acquire T-Mobile USA for $39 billion, the company is saying it doesn't need the FCC's permission to back out of the application, a possibility that reports, including The Times', suggested.
"We have every right to withdraw our merger from the FCC, and the FCC has no right to stop us," said Wayne Watts, AT&T's general counsel, in a statement on Friday. "Any suggestion the agency might do otherwise would be an abuse of procedure which we would immediately challenge in court.”
AT&T and T-Mobile both withdrew their merger applications from the FCC, and an agency spokeswoman told The Times on Thursday that the agency would "consider the request."
Consumer advocacy groups including Public Knowledge suggested that the FCC had several options available regarding AT&T's withdrawal request. The FCC could dismiss the application "with prejudice," effectively barring AT&T from submitting the approval request later. The agency could continue its earlier plan to send the case to its own administrative law judge, allowing the judge to rule on the withdrawal request. Or the FCC could simply grant the withdrawal, said Harold Feld, the legal director of Public Knowledge.
He and others have suggested AT&T is withdrawing its request to prevent publication of documents that would reveal "reams of information not only about AT&T and T-Mobile but about the state of the telecom industry that those and other companies might not want to be made public."
Still, AT&T says the suggestion that it needs permission to pull its application "is not accurate."
"The FCC’s own rules give us this right and provide that the FCC 'will' grant any such withdrawal. Further, this has been the FCC’s own consistent interpretation of its rules."
-- David Sarno
Photo: Executives at AT&T in March to announce the company's plan to buy T-Mobile. Credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images.