Justice Department appealing court ruling

Justice Department Appeals AT&T-Time Warner Merger Decision

The Justice Department filed a notice of appeal of a federal judge's decision last month that paved the way for AT&T to acquire Time Warner.

AT&T was sued by the Justice Department on antitrust grounds, saying that the deal would harm consumers, but U.S. District Judge Richard Leon last month approved the deal, allowing it to move forward following a lengthy trial.

Instead he backed AT&T's claims that the merger would allow the companies to marry the telecom giant's trove of consumer data with Time Warner content in order to deliver targeted advertising - a market that's now dominated by web giants like Facebook and Google.

However, now the DOJ appears to have changed its mind, and served notice today in federal court in Washington, D.C. The action took AT&T by surprise.

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David McAtee, AT&T's general counsel, said the company is "ready to defend" the judge's decision. Still, the Justice Department apparently believes it has an adequate legal basis to show an error in Leon's ruling, Schaeffer said. AT&T is a phone, cable and satellite behemoth that became the biggest pay-TV provider in the US with its acquisition of DirecTV in 2014.

AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson told reporters on Thursday (local time) that the company was not surprised about the DoJ's decision to appeal. The merger fuses a company that produces news and entertainment with one that funnels that programming to consumers.

The merger, first announced in October 2016, was opposed by President Donald Trump.

This fuelled speculation that Trump could be retaliating due to critical coverage of his administration from news broadcaster CNN, which was part of Time Warner. Prosecutors argued that AT&T could inflate the price of HBO for other content distributors. AT&T has since closed the acquisition of Time Warner, including CNN. Just a day after Leon ruled, Comcast launched a $65 billion cash bid for the bulk of 21st Century Fox - topping Disney's all-stock $52.5 billion offer in December.

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