Judge Orders Justice Department to Seek Consent to Release Pricing Data to AT&T

A federal judge issued an order on Monday designed to help AT&T and Time Warner obtain pricing data that nine major companies gave to the Justice Department in prior merger investigations.

AT&T and Time Warner intend to use the data to show what happened to pricing for programming in the wake of past vertical mergers. The Justice Department is suing to block the merger, arguing that it is anticompetitive and will lead to higher prices, but AT&T and Time Warner want to show the impact of recent major transactions.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, in his order issued on Monday, said that the Justice Department should seek the consent of Comcast/NBCUniversal, Charter, Cox, Altice, Disney, Fox, Viacom, Discovery, and Scripps to give the confidential data to AT&T and Time Warner.

The Justice Department had been in possession of the data from past merger investigations, but argued that it could not turn it over as part of the discovery process in the AT&T case because they were obligated to protect that third party information.

At a hearing last week, Dan Petrocelli, the lead attorney for AT&T and Time Warner, said that some of the third parties no longer had some of their own data and that the Justice Department had the only copy.

Leon said on Friday that he would issue an order to spur the release of the information. The dispute over the release of such information is fairly common in the discovery process of a high-stakes case.

The trial in the case is scheduled to begin on March 19.

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