Nearly 30 Democratic Congressional lawmakers have petitioned the Department of Justice asking that it carefully vet the antitrust issues associated with the pending $43 billion merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery.
“This transaction raises significant antitrust concerns," reads a letter sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Justice Department antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter.
"In particular, the merger threatens to enhance the market power of the combined firm and substantially lessen competition in the media and entertainment industry, harming both consumers and American workers,” the letter states. “In light of these concerns, we respectfully urge the Department to conduct a thorough review of this transaction to ensure that it does not harm American consumers and workers by illegally harming competition.”
The letter was penned by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).
Nearly 30 other members of Congress signed the letter, including. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) and Ted W. Lieu (D-Torrance).
Speaking Monday morning at the UBS Global TMT Conference, AT&T CEO John Stankey said it's "not unusual" for lawmakers to send such a letter for a merger of this size. He framed the claims as "unfounded" and "not that strong" relative to other telecom-media-technology mergers he's been associated with. Stankey assured investors that the merger is still on track to close in the first half of 2022.
Regardless, the letter is only the latest indicator that the creation of the so-called "Warner Bros. Discovery" may not be regulatory slam dunk.
Nonprofits including Public Knowledge and the American Antitrust Institute have already outlined concerns to the DOJ.
And in June, Lina Khan was appointed to chair the Federal Trade Commission, cementing in power a former law professor and Congressional aide who built her reputation calling for an overhaul of antitrust policy in the digital era.
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