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ATT Abandons T-Mobile Merger; A Sign of Things to Come?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on December 20, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

AT&T has officially ended its $39 billion bid to purchase T-Mobile USA. Last month, the telecom behemoth withdrew its FCC merger application with plans to re-file. But executives quickly realized that, even with changes, there was no way the deal would receive approval.

The company now owes Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile's parent company, a breakup fee of $4 billion. It'll also need to find new ways to address the mobile spectrum crunch, which would have been eased with the merger.

The failure of the AT&T merger will undoubtedly impact the wireless industry. But what does it mean for corporations nationwide?

The Justice Department has taken a relatively hands-off approach to antitrust enforcement despite President Obama's campaign promise to reinvigorate oversight.

Though it investigated the 2010 merger between United Airlines and Continental, it approved the deal with only a few caveats. Ticketmaster's buyout of Live Nation also ended in an out-of-court settlement despite widespread opposition.

Thus some believe that the AT&T merger is a sign of a renewed commitment to antitrust enforcement.

Statistically speaking this may be true. The Justice Department has significantly increased enforcement in the last year. It blocked only 6 deals in the decade leading up to this past May, reports CFO Magazine. But it blocked, or ordered changes, in 11 deals in this year alone.

It's also currently challenging an acquisition involving H&R Block.

The Antitrust Division also appears to have renewed its criminal enforcement. Attorneys have filed a number of bid rigging, price-fixing and kickback complaints in the last six months.

So in addition to challenging mergers, the Justice Department may increasingly be going after corporate executives.

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