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Categories: att Time Warner

WASHINGTON — The #antitrust trial over @AT&T’s proposed merger with @Time Warner started on Monday, a case that has huge ramifications for the future of Hollywood and other massive media mergers in an age of consumer disruption. The first morning was devoted to the question of just what types of evidence should be admitted into the case, but it also offered a glimpse of what will happen in the weeks ahead. AT&T CEO @Randall Stephenson and Time Warner CEO @Jeff Bewkes are expected to testify, and the government is planning to call executives at rival companies to argue that the transaction will harm their competitive positions. The Justice Department, which is suing to block the $85 billion merger, wants to enter a large number of emails from executives from both companies, including what one of the government’s attorneys, Eric Welsh, said would be “some very startling statements” from corporate executives. AT&T’s lead attorney Daniel Petrocelli argued that the DOJ shouldn’t be allowed to admit the emails unless it can call witnesses to establish their relevance. He also said that there is a question as to whether an email came from an employee who had authority at the company, noting that the government was seeking to admit 18 exhibits from one worker who was just out of business school. “There isn’t a one shoe fits all answer to this,” Petrocelli said. Leon has not said how he will handle the email admissions, but cautioned that just because something was written on a corporate account does not mean that it is a business record, and much more explicitly relevant to the case. Later in the morning, Welsh also argued for the admission of past statements that AT&T and DirecTV have made in the FCC’s merger reviews and other proceedings. When it sued to block the merger, the Justice Department used some of the quotes that AT&T made in an FCC proceeding in 2012, including that distributors that control programming “have the incentive and ability to use (and indeed have used whenever and wherever they can) that control as a weapon to hinder competition.”

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