The federal judge in the Justice Department’s antitrust case against the $85 billion AT&T/Time Warner merger reportedly told lawyers for both sides to up their tempo or risk missing the extended June 21 deadline to consummate the deal.
If the merger is denied by regulators, AT&T would have to pay Time Warner $500 million for its efforts. If the media company backs out, it would be on the hook to AT&T for $1.7 billion.
“Both sides need to sit down with their clients and their teams and make sure they have down what they need versus what they want,” U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon said March 28, as reported by Reuters. “If we are going to get this done prior to that date, we have to move.”
The trial in Washington, D.C., which is in its first week, is slated to last six to eight weeks.
The DOJ contends the merger would be harmful to consumers, with AT&T leveraging third-party access to Time Warner assets HBO, Turner (TBS, TNT, CNN) and Warner Bros. for its own DirecTV platforms.
On the stand, John Martin, CEO of Turner, denied any content would be withheld from distributors following the merger.
“I would like every distributor to carry every network I have and carry it at 100% penetration,” Martin said in cross-examination by AT&T lawyer Daniel Petrocelli.
Later, Petrocelli grilled Marty Hinson, marketing strategy and intelligence with Cox Communications, regarding his testimony that Cox subscribers would pay more for content if AT&T acquired Time Warner.
Hinson admitted he had no direct knowledge or had seen any documentation supporting the allegation.
Petrocelli in 1997 successfully prosecuted O.J. Simpson in the wrongful death civil suit involving his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.