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Status hearings start for DOJ, Sprint suits over T-Mobile deal

Fri, 12/09/2011 - 2:59pm
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

Two hearings began today on the status of separate lawsuits from the Justice Department and Sprint challenging AT&T's $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA.

The dockets for the cases have not yet been updated with documents from the hearings. None of the parties in the cases could be immediately reached for comment.

Sprint and AT&T have asked that the trial for their suit over the merger be postponed until the DOJ's case gets underway, but they disagree on when the trial should get underway.

The hearings come amid uncertainty over the future of the merger. AT&T pulled its FCC application for the deal two weeks ago to focus its efforts on reaching a settlement with the DOJ as it scrambles to salvage the deal. It also plans to record a $4 billion charge in its fourth-quarter earnings to account for termination fees associated with the deal, a concession the transaction may fail.

Comments this week from Special Master Richard Levie, who is helping to coordinate the suits against the deal, indicated that the DOJ has questions about whether the merger was still active after the withdrawal of AT&T's merger application.

"DOJ interprets these comments to mean that the current litigation may, in fact, not present a live case or controversy," Levie said in court documents.

AT&T CFO John Stephens said at an investor conference this week that the company is still working to find a way to save the deal.

"We continue to move forward with our efforts to complete the T-Mobile transaction," Stephens said at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference on Wednesday.

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