On Wednesday, the Obama Justice Department filed an antitrust suit to block AT&T’s merger with T-Mobile. On Thursday, the New York Times reported that the telecom giant was “caught off guard” by the government’s decision to sue. The Times‘ Michael de la Merced interviewed law professor Susan Crawford for his story on the lawsuit. Here’s what she told him:
“Justice has done a thorough job,” said Susan Crawford, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. “AT&T’s surprise shows they took this as political matter and not a legal matter.”
Determining whether the AT&T/T-Mobile merger is anti-competitive is a legal matter, however AT&T “took” it. There is a whole body of case law on these sorts of issues and the courts will use that, along with the facts in this particular case, to decide whether the merger violates anti-trust rules. In Crawford’s telling, AT&T execs thought that if they could win the political fight, the law wouldn’t matter. The telecom honchos were wrong, but the fact they convinced themselves that winning the political fight is all they would have to do says a lot about just how much power corporations think they wield (and often do wield) in Washington.