Bloomberg News

AT&T Seeks Data on Sprint’s Wireless Deals in Antitrust Case

October 19, 2011

(Updates with excerpt from filing in fourth paragraph.)

Oct. 19 (Bloomberg) -- AT&T Inc., the wireless carrier fighting U.S. efforts to block its proposed acquisition of T- Mobile USA Inc., asked for data on rival Sprint Nextel Corp.’s past corporate transactions.

AT&T asked Sprint for documents relating to transactions entered into since January 2004, including deals with Nextel Communications Inc., Virgin Mobile and Clearwire Corp., according to a filing in Washington federal court today by Sprint, which filed its own lawsuit to halt the T-Mobile deal.

Sprint said the request shows why U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle should give it access to data Dallas-based AT&T turned over to the Justice Department.

“Requests for these types of documents go far beyond ordinary, non-party merger case discovery, which focuses on the current competitive landscape, not on the details of every transaction entered into by a competitor in the last eight years,” Overland Park, Kansas-based Sprint said in the filing.

Sprint and Ridgeland, Mississippi-based Cellular South Inc. urged Huvelle to let their outside lawyers and experts use AT&T’s private data to prepare for trial in their own lawsuits. To deprive them of that opportunity creates a “fundamental unfairness,” the wireless carriers said in an earlier filing.

Relevant Information

The companies argue that as competitors with relevant information they have been subpoenaed for documents by AT&T in the government’s antitrust suit to block the deal. At the same time, Huvelle, overseeing all the AT&T cases, froze document exchanges in the private lawsuits while she weighs the company’s bid to dismiss them.

John Taylor, a spokesman for Sprint, declined to comment beyond the filing. Michael Balmoris, an AT&T spokesman, declined to comment.

In an Oct. 17 filing, AT&T said the subpoenas it issued to Sprint, Cellular South and 14 other wireless providers are routine and seek information on similar topics. Huvelle said in a court filing that she’ll address the issue at a hearing scheduled for Oct. 24.

The Justice Department sued AT&T and Bonn-based Deutsche Telekom AG’s T-Mobile unit on Aug. 31, saying a combination of the two companies would “substantially” reduce competition. Seven states and Puerto Rico joined the effort to block the deal, which would make AT&T the biggest U.S. wireless carrier.

Market Leaders

Sprint filed its antitrust lawsuit on Sept. 6, less than a week after the U.S. sued. Sprint, the third-biggest U.S. wireless carrier, said the proposed merger would weaken its ability to compete with AT&T, the second-biggest, and Verizon Communications Inc., the market leader. The combination of AT&T and T-Mobile would form the country’s largest mobile-phone company.

Cellular South sued on Sept. 19, claiming the merger threatened to “substantially” cut competition.

Sprint became the No. 3 U.S. mobile-phone provider after its $36 billion purchase of Nextel Communications Inc. in 2005. It bought Virgin Mobile USA Inc. in 2009 and took a majority stake in Clearwire in 2008, where it doesn’t have operational control.

Sprint has also bought affiliates with which it had agreements to use the Sprint brand in exchange for building out the network, including IPCS Inc. in 2009.

The case is U.S. v. AT&T Inc., 11-cv-01560, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

--Editors: Fred Strasser, Charles Carter

To contact the reporters on this story: Tom Schoenberg in Washington at tschoenberg@bloomberg.net; Sara Forden in Washington at sforden@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net


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