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AT&T-Time Warner Trial: DOJ Grills Executive on ‘Cash Cow’ Comment

WASHINGTON — An attorney for the Justice Department, seeking to show that AT&T sought Time Warner as a way to preserve its lucrative pay-TV revenue stream, grilled an executive who once referred to the business as a “cash cow.”

But during Thursday’s testimony in the AT&T-Time Warner antitrust trial, the company’s legal team highlighted how the executive, Gregory Manty, was far from the ranks of decision makers on the merger. He joined the company in 2014.

During his opening arguments in the trial last month, the Justice Department’s lead attorney said that they would show that AT&T was buying Time Warner as a “weapon” to protect its pay-TV “cash cow” and slow the innovation in the industry. AT&T owns DirecTV.

So it was not a surprise that the government called Manty, a director of corporate strategy at AT&T, as an adverse witness.

On the stand, he was questioned by DOJ attorney Julie Elmer about his work on a document he created in April, 2017, for the corporate merger integration teams.

The draft of the document described the merger as a way to “ensure stability” as the pay-TV business experiences a “slow structural decline.” Manty also wrote a note that the pay-TV business will be a “cash cow” for years to come.

After Manty sent the report to his superiors, the language in it was revised to say “encourage stability.” In an email in response at the time, Manty wrote that the changes made the wording “too bland,” but also noted that it was subject to review by lawyers.

Elmer pressed Manty on whether the presentation had been “sanitized,” but he resisted that characterization.

AT&T-Time Warner’s attorney, Randy Oppenheimer, tried to highlight that Manty was not in the ranks of senior executives at the company. He asked Manty whether he had anything to do with the decision to merge the two companies, and Manty responded, “No.” Manty also said that the merger integration teams of the two companies were “highly regulated” and subject to lawyers’ review because the deal had yet to close.

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