(Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Justice’s move to block AT&T Inc’s $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc was “foolish” because the deal posed no threat to consumers, the wireless carrier’s trial lawyer Dan Petrocelli told CNBC on Tuesday.
The Justice Department on Monday sued AT&T arguing that the U.S. No. 2 wireless carrier would use Time Warner’s content to force rival pay-TV companies to pay “hundreds of millions of dollars more per year for Time Warner’s networks.”
AT&T has vowed to defend the deal.
“We want to go to court as soon as possible,” Petrocelli told CNBC, saying the burden of proof was on the government.
The case was initially assigned on Tuesday to Judge Christopher Cooper in federal court in Washington but later reassigned to Judge Richard Leon.
The case will be closely watched because U.S. President Donald Trump has been a vocal critic of Time Warner’s CNN, and opposed AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner on the campaign trail last year, saying it would concentrate too much power in AT&T’s hands.
In antitrust circles, the court fight will be closely watched since the Justice Department has not successfully litigated to stop a vertical deal - where the merging companies are not direct competitors - since the 1970s, when it prevented Ford Motor Co from buying assets from spark-plug maker Autolite.
Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Bengaluru; and Diane Bartz in Washington; Editing by Bernard Orr and Bill Rigby