A PYMNTS Company

US: Meet the judge in antitrust case against AT&T-Time Warner

 |  November 23, 2017

A federal judge who was critical of the Comcast-NBC Universal (NBCU) merger before signing off on the media megadeal in 2011 will oversee the Justice Department’s lawsuit to block AT&T’s similar takeover of Time Warner.

Judge Richard Leon is a George W. Bush-appointee who has served on the US District Court for DC since 2002. On Tuesday, November 23, he was randomly assigned to the case — one of the biggest antitrust showdowns to hit a Washington courtroom in years.

The case had been assigned to Judge Christopher Cooper, an Obama-appointee, but was switched to Leon’s courtroom less than two hours later. The court did not provide a reason for the reassignment, however, Cooper’s wife works at the law firm Arnold & Porter, which is lead counsel for AT&T on antitrust issues, posing a potential conflict.

Leon is a conservative and veteran judge with a legal resume that includes time in the Reagan Justice Department and on the House Banking Committee’s Whitewater investigation. He has issued prominent decisions against government overreach, most notably a 2013 opinion calling the NSA’s collection of domestic phone records “almost-Orwellian” and unconstitutional.

But his skepticism of the Comcast deal will be closely studied by attorneys on all sides of the case. Comcast-NBCU was one of the most high-profile media deals to face antitrust scrutiny in recent years until now.

In the suit filed against AT&T and Time Warner on Monday, the Justice Department argued that the deal violates antitrust law because the new company would likely “use its control of Time Warner’s popular programming as a weapon to harm competition.”

Full Content: Bloomberg

Want more news? Subscribe to CPI’s free daily newsletter for more headlines and updates on antitrust developments around the world.