Warren Asks Antitrust Chief to Step Aside on AT&T-Time Warner

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By Liz Crampton

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) Oct. 12 asked the Justice Department’s antitrust chief to recuse himself from the agency’s review of AT&T Inc. and Time Warner Inc.'s proposed tie-up.

So far, Makan Delrahim has refused to commit to a recusal.

Before being named assistant attorney general of the DOJ’s antitrust division, Makan Delrahim told a Canadian TV station that he thinks the proposed $85.4 billion merger doesn’t pose a “major antitrust problem” because it doesn’t involve direct competitors.

Warren said she’s concerned by Delrahim’s comments about the merger, which she says “implies an underappreciation of the impact of a merger of that size on the media market.”

In a letter to Delrahim, Warren revealed that Delrahim refused to commit to stepping aside from the investigation in a Sept. 6 meeting. “Your refusal to recuse yourself will undermine public confidence in the division’s ability to reach an unbiased final decision in the matter,” Warren said.

Antitrust officials sometimes remove themselves from investigations that pose a conflict, such as mergers involving companies that are former clients. According to lobbying disclosures, Delrahim has never formally lobbied for either AT&T or Time Warner.

“A merger of AT&T and Time Warner would have an enormous impact on the media and entertainment industry, and the American public deserves to know that the division has not prejudged this matter. That cannot happen if you are involved in the case,” Warren’s letter said.

The Justice Department declined to comment on whether Delrahim will recuse himself.

To contact the reporter on this story: Liz Crampton in Washington at lcrampton@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bna.com

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