Judge Gives Ok For Sprint And C Spire Wireless To Sue AT&T Over Proposed $39B T-Mobile Merger

A judge has ruled that Sprint and C Spire Wireless will be allowed to pursue part of their antitrust lawsuit against AT&T Inc's proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA. AT&T and T-Mobile wanted to have the suit dismissed, but U.S. District Judge Helen Huvelle has allowed the case to continue.

Looks like AT&T and T-Mobile can't get a break on this merger. Why?

The companies have to fend off the U.S. Department of Justice's attempt to block the deal and now from industry competitors in Sprint and C Spire Wireless. Clearly, many lawyers are not going hungry as they rack up substantial billable hours as they work to bring a resolution to this matter.

Judge Huvelle, has allowed C Spire Wireless a small regional carrier formerly known as Cellular South to move ahead with its claims pertaining to the effect of roaming services if the merger would be allowed to go through. "Where private plaintiffs have successfully pleaded antitrust injury, the fact that they are defendants' competitors is no bar" to pursuing their claims, Huvelle wrote.

If you are unaware of how the cellular industry works, typically regional carriers pay the national carriers to use their networks when their subscribers need to roam or travel outside of the regional carrier's network. So the big issue is that with the merger, will AT&T combined with T-Mobile have too much power and raise prices to the regional carriers that could be prohibitively expensive.

Wayne Watts, AT&T Senior Executive VP and General Counsel, said the ruling dismissed "the vast majority of the claims" from Sprint and CellSouth.

"We believe the limited, minor claims they have left are entirely without merit," he said in an emailed statement.

Sometimes you have to question the motives of those in the world of business because essentially we're talking dollars, cash and money. Now that Sprint and C Spire Wireless have been allowed to continue their lawsuit they will gain access to documents from AT&T and T-Mobile as part of the court proceedings.

Could company secrets now be revealed to their competitors?

U.S. antitrust law is designed to protect consumers, rather than competitors, which means that courts would be expected to view a competitor's lawsuit skeptically. So this is definitely taking quite the turn and maybe we have ourselves a soap opera that is about to play out before our very own eyes.


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