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The Department of Justice may have screwed us all by losing the AT&T merger case

The Department of Justice may have screwed us all by losing the AT&T merger case

Yesterday, the Department of Justice suffered its first antitrust loss in court since 2004, paving the way for AT&T to merge with Time Warner and opening the floodgates for similar mergers in the near future. Losing a high-profile case in court — and doing so in dramatic fashion — is obviously embarrassing for the Department of Justice, but the end result has more serious consequences down the line.

The first of those is that AT&T will be able to complete its merger with Time Warner with no conditions whatsoever. In the past, the DoJ has come to an agreement with companies engaging in a contentious merger, setting conditions that must be respected in order for the deal to be completed. Those conditions can include spinning out some divisions separately, forced arbitration for some dispute settlements with competitors, or limitations on control or ownership.