AT&T will have to stall its acquisition of Time Warner as it faces an antitrust lawsuit from the Department of Justice over its concerns of the reduction in marketplace competition and the growth of consumer costs for both telecom services and content.
A federal judge has set the start date for the trial on March 19. AT&T requested that the trial begin on February 20 while the department wanted May 7, Reuters reports. Furthermore, Judge Richard Leon said that he did not expect to report an outcome until late April at the earliest.
This complicates the telco’s $85.4 billion deal with media giant Time Warner as it must pay a $500 million fee to the company if the transaction is not closed by April 22. Both parties have been steadfast in supporting the buyout, though, and they may likely agree to push back the penalty date pending the trial’s outcome.
It has been rumored that the Department of Justice is pursuing this case in relation to AT&T’s refusal to sell Time Warner-owned CNN which President Donald Trump has criticized throughout the ascendancy of his campaign. Trump has expressed his disapproval of the deal multiple times. His comments are not expected to weigh in the deliberation of the agency’s case against this vertical integration, which will focus on competition.