* Dream team of antitrust negotiators, litigators hired
* Some retained have worked for the government previously
By Jeremy Pelofsky
WASHINGTON, Sept 22 AT&T Inc (T.N), Deutsche
Telekom AG (DTEGn.DE) and T-Mobile USA have amassed an army of
former senior government antitrust officials to try to save
their $39 billion deal to combine wireless businesses.
Questions abound for all sides: How strong is existing
antitrust law? Can competition survive with the combination of
two big wireless carriers? Or if the Justice Department
succeeds in blocking it, will AT&T have to pay $6 billion in
cash and wireless airwaves as a breakup fee to T-Mobile?
"Under the circumstances, I think they need the very best
team they can put together," said Bert Foer, president of the
American Antitrust Institute. "It seems to me they have an
uphill battle, and they need people who are capable of
negotiating, but also capable of going to the mat if there is a
Several of the lawyers who make up the legal dream team for
the wireless companies previously worked in top roles at either
the U.S. Justice Department's antitrust division or the Federal
Trade Commission's competition bureau.
Among those hired are longtime antitrust negotiators who
have worked on scores of acquisitions, as well as tough
litigators such as Richard Parker. At least one lawyer, Richard
Rosen, has been before Judge Ellen Huvelle, who is overseeing
Last month the Justice Department sued to block the
acquisition of Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile USA unit, the No. 4
U.S. wireless carrier, by AT&T, which ranks second in that
market. The companies hope to settle so the deal can close.
The companies can afford to hire the best of the best for
the case, said Howard University School of Law professor Andrew
Gavil, a longtime antitrust expert.
"Rich (Parker) is particularly known for being a really
fine trial lawyer," Gavil said. "That shows that they wanted to
make sure if they have to go to trial they have a really good
person who's familiar with trying cases, not just thinking
Deutsche Telekom and T-Mobile hired Parker, who had worked
at the FTC during the Clinton administration. Now a partner at
O'Melveny & Myers LLP, he helped Triton Coal Co in its 2004
sale to Arch Coal (ACI.N), which the FTC tried unsuccessfully
As is often the case in Washington, many of the lawyers
worked for the government before switching sides to use that
experience on behalf of private clients -- typically for more
"It's the revolving door of Washington," Gavil said. "One
of the things that attracts lawyers to public service is the
ability to sell their expertise when they leave."
During an 80-minute hearing on Wednesday to set the trial
date, a parade of lawyers for all the parties filled the well
of the largest courtroom in the federal courthouse and several
benches in the audience.
Among them was AT&T's longtime outside attorney, Richard
Rosen of Arnold & Porter LLP. He represented the carrier and
its predecessors in many deals, including a consent decree with
the Justice Department for AT&T to buy Dobson Communications.
Judge Huvelle approved the settlement.
Also in the courtroom was Deutsche Telekom and T-Mobile
lawyer George Cary of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, who
before that worked at the FTC in the Clinton administration. He
was lead counsel in the agency's successful challenge to
Staples (SPLS.O) and Office Depot's ODP.N merger deal.
After leaving the FTC, he guided major deals, including
AOL's AOL.N purchase of Time Warner, through antitrust
AT&T's lead lawyer during the scheduling hearing on
Wednesday was a former federal prosecutor, Mark Hansen. He
works for a smaller Washington law firm that focuses on
litigation, including big telecommunications cases.
Sprint Nextel (S.N), which has filed a separate lawsuit
against the deal, hired its own star lawyer -- Greg Craig,
former White House counsel under President Barack Obama and now
at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.
THE GOVERNMENT'S TEAM
In recent years, the government has filed only a handful of
antitrust lawsuits to block big mergers. One of the pending
cases includes H&R Block's (HRB.N) bid for 2SS Holdings Inc,
developer of the TaxACT digital tax preparation business.
Lawyers for AT&T have been spotted at some of those
proceedings, according to one source familiar with the matter.
The Justice Department has its own group of high-powered
lawyers on the case. It has tapped the lead litigator in the
H&R Block case, Joseph Wayland, to handle the AT&T and T-Mobile
trial as well.
Before joining the Obama administration about a year ago,
Wayland was at a private law firm. There he worked on a variety
of cases, including antitrust matters, as well as serving as
lead counsel for defendants in civil litigation involving the
Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
With him is Claude Scott, who worked on the government's
failed lawsuit to block Oracle Corp ORCL.O from buying
PeopleSoft in 2004.
While not part of the government's litigation team, the
Justice Department antitrust division's chief counsel for
competition policy, Gene Kimmelman, signed the complaint. The
longtime Washington lawyer has worked for Congress as well as
for consumer advocacy groups opposed to massive mergers.
During the scheduling hearing in federal court on
Wednesday, Kimmelman took a seat toward the back of the
courtroom, drawing a few grins and greetings from some of the
(Editing by Howard Goller and Lisa Von Ahn)