Wright did not make his
remarks available to the press, but in the past, he has been a harsh critic of
the U.S. Department of Justice's antitrust suit seeking to stop to merger. He
has also criticized the antitrust lawsuits of Cellular South and Sprint
All of this was happening
while U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was testifying before the Senate
Judiciary Committee where he said that the DOJ was "ready and eager to go to court"
in the antitrust suit against the
AT&T-T-Mobile merger. He also said that his department doesn't file suits
it doesn't plan to take to trial. Holder was trying to put speculation to rest
that the DOJ was looking for a settlement with AT&T.
Meanwhile. AT&T is
pushing back the anticipated closing date for the acquisition of T-Mobile.
If this sounds like a lot of
activity in one day for an antitrust suit that's not going to trial until
February, well, it is. The reason for all of this activity is visible on the
surface in the form of those ubiquitous advertisements by AT&T that the
merger will somehow magically add 100,000 new jobs once it happens. But beneath
the surface, there's a lot going on. The Attorney General is under pressure by
some Republican lawmakers to resign, although not because of the merger.
But many of those same
Republican members of Congress are also pressuring him to drop the antitrust
lawsuit against AT&T. There is some indication in the rumor mill that the
GOP is making it seem as if dropping the AT&T merger would involve some
sort of quid pro quo in which those same members of Congress might go easy in its
investigation of the "Operation Fast and Furious" scandal which involves the
Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a DOJ agency. During
this sting operation, ATF facilitated illegal gun sales to suspected Mexican
drug cartel members as a way to build cases against these criminal
But despite the fact that
such a thing as the Republicans going easy on Holder for any reason is sheer
fantasy, the idea is gaining traction in some circles in Washington. So, as a
result, all sides brought out their big guns for the day Holder was testifying
before his Senate oversight committee.
Will all this somehow change
the direction of the antitrust action, or anything else for that matter? Of
course not. The Neumark report has been out since August; the wildly inflated
job claims have been public nearly as long. What's really going on is an
attempt to influence the undercurrent of political pressure, pro and con,
that's building up in advance of the actual hearings next year. It's also clear
evidence that AT&T has millions of dollars saved up to spend on political
pressure and it won't be shy about using it.