“I will assure that we will have an antitrust division that is serious about pursuing cases,” the Illinois senator told an audience of mostly senior citizens in Oregon.
“There are going to be areas, in the media for example where we’re seeing more and more consolidation, that I think (it) is legitimate to ask…is the consumer being served?”
“We’re going to have an antitrust division in the Justice Department that actually believes in antitrust law. We haven’t had that for the last seven, eight years,” he said.
“Some of the consolidations that have been taking place, I think, may be anti-competitive.”
Obama advisers have said previously that he would crack down on any competition lapses in the energy sector that have resulted from big corporate mergers.
This two-track plan will allow AT&T to try to find a settlement before the lawsuit reaches the court.
"AT&T is pretty determined that they can find a solution, and they are pretty confident," one of the sources said, requesting anonymity as the talks are private.
Details of AT&T's proposed settlement were not available, but it is expected to include pledges to maintain T-Mobile's relatively cheap mobile subscription plans, and asset sales.
AT&T may have to sell up to 25 percent of T-Mobile's business, including airwaves and customers, two sources said, to address the government's concern that just three companies would control 90 percent of the U.S. wireless market if the merger goes through.
Bob Doyle, a former antitrust enforcer now in private practice, said it would be difficult for AT&T to reach a settlement with the Justice Department as there would have to be divestitures on both the national and regional level.
While there might be several buyers for regional assets, the only possible buyers for national assets are Verizon Wireless and No. 3-ranked Sprint Nextel Corp -- which could cause another round of antitrust scrutiny.
"Verizon's a no go. Sprint may be a no go also," said Doyle.
U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle in Washington, D.C., was selected at random to preside over the case, one of the biggest antitrust court battles in years.
She has a reputation for speedy rulings, which would be welcome to AT&T compared with months or even years of uncertainty. For Deutsche Telekom, it has tried for years to find a way out of its T-Mobile business, and has no Plan B.
AT&T has asked for an expedited hearing, and one source expects the case could go to court in two months.
Attorneys general from California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington have signed onto the effort to stop the deal that would merge two of the four large national cellphone carriers.
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