Hillary Burchuk, trial attorney with the FCC’s office of general counsel, will lead the team reviewing Comcast’s plans to acquire Time Warner Cable, as well as a related transaction in which Charter Communications will acquire 1.4 million Time Warner Cable subscribers. Another 2.5 million Comcast subscribers will become part of a spinoff company controlled by Charter.
Burchuk was formerly an attorney in the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, and was among the team that worked on that department’s review of the Comcast and NBC Universal merger in 2011. Government regulators approved that deal subject to a number of conditions.
Jamillia Ferris, who served in the Justice Department from 2010 to 2013, will head the team reviewing the AT&T-DirecTV transaction. Her tenure at the Justice Department included a stint as chief of staff and counsel to William Baer, assistant attorney general of the Antitrust Division. Among the cases she oversaw was the Apple ebook price fixing lawsuit. She most recently has been in private practice with Hunton & Williams.
In an interview in May, before her appointment to the FCC, she told Variety that the government would likely look at a number of potential impacts from the mergers. “Horizontal competition won’t be the only way they look at market dynamics and the competitive effects of the transaction,” she said. “For example, you can expect that they will examine whether the combined company will have enhanced buying power that results in less or lower quality output when negotiating with content providers. DOJ may also analyze whether that power harms competition with other media companies trying to access content.”
The FCC also announced that its general counsel, Jonathan Sallet, will chair a steering committee that will oversee both of the transactions, with members including William Lake, chief of the Media Bureau; Mindel de la Torre, chief of the International Bureau; Julie Veach, chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau; and Roger Sherman, chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau.
William Rogerson, a professor at Northwestern University, will serve as senior economist overseeing the transactions. He argued against the Comcast-NBC U merger in 2010, after producing a study commissioned by the American Cable Assn. Shane Greenstein, professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, will serve as senior economic consultant on the transactions.
Wall Street analysts said that the announcements signaled that the FCC was about to start its 180-day clock to review the transactions, although that time frame is informal. In a report issued on Monday, Bernstein Research’s Paul de Sa wrote that the selections of team members signal a coordinated, efficient review process with the Department of Justice, which also must greenlight the mergers. Bernstein’s analysts predict that both transactions will be approved with conditions early in 2015.