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June 12, 2018 3:53 PM   Subscribe

The DOJ has lost its suit to block the merger of AT&T and Time Warner. The $85.4 billion purchase was cleared with no conditions. United States District Judge Richard Leon's 172-page opinion here.
posted by hypersloth (38 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, fuck.
posted by sciatrix at 3:57 PM on June 12 [8 favorites]


.
posted by PhineasGage at 3:58 PM on June 12 [5 favorites]


So, is Ma Bell going to re-form and make all those Saul Bass logo manhole covers legit again?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:03 PM on June 12 [5 favorites]


You know honestly Capitalism isn't so bad as long as companies are all too small and too busy fighting each other to have time to fuck over consumers. Conservatives unreservedly believe that big governments are inherently wasteful and bad for citizens, what do we have to do to get conservatives to believe that big companies are just as bad for customers again?
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:12 PM on June 12 [37 favorites]


The entire assumption that "vertical" mergers have less anticompetitive effect that "horizontal" mergers is a complete fiction. Combined with the "rule of reason" test has never been adequately defined, it means in practice that nearly every antitrust challenge to a merger will be overruled by the courts.

Further the definition of the relevant market allows the court to interpret the market effects as broadly or narrowly as they want in order to deny the antitrust challenge.

Basically, antitrust enforcement in the US is dead. It's been deader than dead for a decade. Congress could restore teeth to antitrust by passing actual definitons into the antiquated and comically broad Sherman and Clayton Acts, but, lol look at Congress.
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:14 PM on June 12 [24 favorites]


I assume that since the government allowed Comcast to buy NBC and Universal ten years ago, they wouldn't have had grounds to then stop AT&T.
posted by riruro at 4:19 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Part of the strength of the Sherman and Clayton Acts was that they are vague. High paid lawyers will find any technicality they can to get around a specific antitrust rule, so the theory was that leaving things vague allowed judges to rule that organizations could still be broken up when they technically skirted around existing case law but were still monopolies. Doesn't work when judges have poor and narrow judgment, though.

Permissiveness about vertical monopolies is a loophole Amazon's lawyers have exploited ruthlessly. Vertical monopolies can confer market power the same as horizontal monopolies, so its not clear why the distinction matters this much.
posted by Hume at 4:23 PM on June 12 [6 favorites]


Part of the strength of the Sherman and Clayton Acts was that they are vague.

Completely agree, and a strict interpretation of the intent WAS possible...literally 100 years ago. At this point the entire intent of the antitrust regime has been completely subverted to the point that an entirely new, much more explicit, statutory framework is required to overrule the over a century of courts undermining the original intent of the progressive Congress. Congress has this power. They haven't wanted to use it in a century, not even the Democrats.
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:31 PM on June 12 [9 favorites]


nearly every antitrust challenge to a merger will be overruled by the courts

I don't think that's true. This case aside, the government has had a phenomenal record challenging mergers in recent years. Usually just the whiff of an antitrust suit by the DOJ or FTC is enough to kill a deal.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 4:31 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]




This means Comcast will get to buy Fox film and television library and production assets unless Disney hikes its bid dramatically.

Implications of this: no Fantastic Four reboot in the MCU, and the biggest real estate investment opportunity in 50 years in LA as the Fox lot can be repurposed with production consolidating to the Universal lot, with whatever gets built there opening only a couple of years before the Century City subway station.
posted by MattD at 5:34 PM on June 12 [6 favorites]


The entire assumption that "vertical" mergers have less anticompetitive effect that "horizontal" mergers is a complete fiction. Combined with the "rule of reason" test has never been adequately defined, it means in practice that nearly every antitrust challenge to a merger will be overruled by the courts.

You can thank failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, the guy who executed Nixon's infamous Saturday Night Massacre after everyone else refused. He is the father of modern anti-antitrust policy. He was the leading proponent of the idea that only horizontal mergers are anti-competitive and even so, that in general monopolies are good for consumers. His 1978 book the Antitrust Paradox outlining his radical ideas has been cited in hundreds of court cases.

>Scans AT&T ruling, and yep, there it is, footnote 20 on page 59, from Bork's Antitrust Paradox. "In absence of a most unlikely proved predatory power and purpose, antitrust should never object to the verticality of any merger." Nothing like putting your thumb on the scale of judicial prudence.
posted by JackFlash at 5:46 PM on June 12 [16 favorites]


Maybe now is a good time for us all to chip in for that 55 gallon drum of lube.
posted by SonInLawOfSam at 5:47 PM on June 12 [5 favorites]


So now Verizon gets to be the underdog.


Also, remember Comcast?
posted by 4ster at 6:34 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


You'd think Time Warner would have learned their lesson with the AOL merger.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 6:39 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


> You know honestly Capitalism isn't so bad as long as companies are all too small and too busy fighting each other to have time to fuck over consumers.

Adam Smith's whole thesis for market-based economies as an efficient mechanism of material distribution rests on this assumption. Somewhere along the way American 'free market' types lost sight of this, and also seem to ignore the fact that most of the founding thinkers of capitalism would say that our current system looks suspiciously like England did back in the day.
posted by cirgue at 7:00 PM on June 12 [14 favorites]


So, is there a pool for which company (by name) will be the one to own more than 50% of the nation's collective corporate valuation, and the same thing for the whole world? Or did that happen already and I just haven't noticed?
posted by davejay at 7:03 PM on June 12


Now, how does that whole three branches, checks and balances system work with the American Corporatocracy?
posted by BlueHorse at 7:08 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Conservatives unreservedly believe that big governments are inherently wasteful and bad for citizens,

No the don't, they say this but tend to enlarge government spending (into to their and their friends' pockets) when in power. They only believe that big governments are inherently wasteful when they're not getting rich off of them.
posted by signal at 7:44 PM on June 12 [12 favorites]


I don't understand how, when there's like four national (scale) banks, five cell phone companies, and like three cable companies, we don't have aggressive anti-trust enforcement going after all of them.
posted by runcibleshaw at 9:50 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]


runcibleshaw... asking in the most light-hearted way, have you missed the past 3 or 4 decades?
posted by kokaku at 10:32 PM on June 12 [6 favorites]


...what do we have to do to get conservatives to believe that big companies are just as bad for customers again?

I don't think they are concerned with the welfare of consumers in any degree at all. They may be fully aware that giant corporations are harmful to consumers, but are not interested in doing anything about it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:05 AM on June 13 [3 favorites]


...what do we have to do to get conservatives to believe that big companies are just as bad for customers again?

Have them run by black people.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 4:39 AM on June 13 [24 favorites]


Well, the insectoid overlords of the inevitable One Huge Corporation Inc. (C) {TM} [r] have promised to eat Supreme Court justices last, so they have that going for them.
posted by Chitownfats at 5:37 AM on June 13


I say this is reasonable enough. Anti trust has meaning in the US, and this case wasn't quite there. The predictable reaction here is that any large merger qualifies. If that's your view, you're in rather deplorable company. If you want to stretch the definitions to fit your agenda, you allow room for the kind of political witch hunt our glorious leader was hoping for.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:30 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


I think this is going to be a good thing. I would be more worried about Bayer consuming Monsanto than AT&T buying a movie studio and some tv networks.

AT&T is a huge ship. I think it's admirable that they see they are going to have to compete directly with the Amazon Borg, Netflix, and Hulu (which I believe NBCUniversal/Comcast owns a stake of already)

I understand people want to bemoan how this is going to affect net neutrality, but these networks are huge, and the amount of peering traffic that a content provider like Netflix sucks up one way is massive! It's unfair for these guys to become the common carrier of bandwidth heavy applications and not consider how this affects the network that they ostensibly own.

I agree with 2N2222. Not all mergers are bad, and this one has potential to be.....interesting at least.
posted by nolabasashi at 6:35 AM on June 13


Thank God someone finally stood up for the poor, beleaguered Telecoms!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:55 AM on June 13 [6 favorites]


In addition to the potential effects of reduced competition on consumers, there may also be effects on workers. Some economists believe that More and more companies have monopoly power over workers’ wages. That’s killing the economy.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:02 AM on June 13 [8 favorites]


Never thought I'd say it again IRL, but here we are:

"Ma Bell is a cheap mother..."
posted by mikelieman at 7:06 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


OTOH, Bell Labs did not suck...
posted by mikelieman at 7:09 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]


Bell Labs was a result of the tax policy at the time more than monopoly. Large corporations paid 50% taxes. At that rate they could either give 50% of their profits away to the government or else keep 100% for themselves if they invested it in research and development. High corporate taxes encourage investment over dividends.
posted by JackFlash at 7:21 AM on June 13 [18 favorites]


This is why it's imperative to support current P2P technologies and sites as well as develop new ones.
posted by signal at 8:01 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]


If that's your view, you're in rather deplorable company.
o lol

this one has potential to be.....interesting at least
It's all the currently-bad parts of ISPs/telecoms crossed with all the historically-terrible parts of cable content packages. With zero consumer upside. It's interesting for investors, I guess, but 'interesting' isn't the word for how everyone else will be experiencing it.
posted by halation at 8:38 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


I know this goes way beyond mass media, but this total domination of media markets one of the many reasons why I have effectively stopped watching/consuming mass media entirely and why I've gone from "cutting the cord" to "I don't even want any of your products at all, please go away." and much more importantly "I don't want to be your product."

Yeah, I guess that's a whole lot of snooty-sounding "kill your television", but the way I see it is a few things:

One: that there's so much truly independent media out there today that you'll never be able to see it all, and it's almost always worth the time spent to find it.

Two: The conglomeration of media companies and the media industry has led us to an oxygen-starved creative environment where they suck up all the talent and make garbage like Bee Movie and the Emoji Movie. While we laugh at these things now, they're symptoms of a pretty toxic or lackluster creative landscape

Three: Perhaps controversial or snootiest of all: Excessive escapism isn't, well, revolutionary, productive or effective. Escapism is an intentional distraction. It is bread-and-circuses. It doesn't do a whole lot to help build a world where escapism is less attractive if you don't confront whatever it is one is escaping. This holds true on personal growth areas or larger cultural, political landscapes, and my values right now are all about both of those things, so naturally I effectively have zero free time to sit around and passively consume some likely forgettable popular media.


Don't just vote with your wallets. Vote with your attention and time.
posted by loquacious at 9:08 AM on June 13 [8 favorites]


Look on the bright side, in a few years we'll be looking back to this era where there were a few different media companies instead of just Disneappleviacast and Alphabetamazonewscorp.
posted by GoblinHoney at 12:38 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]


So, is Ma Bell going to re-form
That already happened - as in 5 of the 8 companies that were formed out of the breakup are all part of AT&T today.
posted by soelo at 2:02 PM on June 13 [3 favorites]


People, people, people! Don’t be too hard on Judge Leon unless you’re totally sure you wouldn’t also sell your country down the river for the slightest chance of getting ten percent off three months of TNT.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:13 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]


One of Time Warner's properties has a subtle comment on the merger... "What Me Worry?"
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:55 PM on June 13


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