Judge Richard Leon’s decision on the AT&T–Time Warner merger was destined to be one of the most important antitrust decisions in years, whichever way he ruled.
Had Leon ruled in favor of the government and blocked the merger, it would have signaled a new age in antitrust enforcement, calling into question other “vertical” mergers like CVS–Aetna, and possibly even creating an argument that could be used to go after vertically integrated companies like Google or Amazon.
By ruling unequivocally against the government, however, Leon not only cleared the way for the AT&T–Time Warner merger, but also for the sale of 21st Century Fox assets to either Disney or Comcast. And the markets yesterday seemed to think the judge’s decision improved prospects for Sprint and T-Mobile to merge—even though that’s a classic horizontal merger. At the core of such thinking is AT&T’s argument that in a world of tech giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Netflix, legacy companies need to merge in order to have any hope of competing.
The government hasn’t said whether it will appeal the ruling. But Judge Leon clearly discouraged any such action. And AT&T issued a statement saying they hoped to close the merger by June 20.
One question that lingered over the case was whether the government’s position was driven by the president’s antipathy to CNN, which is owned by Time Warner. Judge Leon never allowed that part of the case to move forward. But I suspect the president’s non-stop criticism of CNN will make it impossible for AT&T to make major changes at the network, for fear of being seen as bowing to White House pressure. CNN President Jeff Zucker, ironically, may have the president to thank for his continued employment.
More news below.
Looking at the language
The Federal Reserve today is all but certain to raise interest rates again, so investors are paying more attention to the language it uses to characterize its monetary policy. The wording may provide clues as to when the U.S. central bank will stop its rate hike cycle amid the ongoing economic expansion. Reuters
That’s billion with a B
Toyota is pouring an extraordinary $1 billion into Southeast Asia’s Grab, valuing the one-time Uber rival at over $10 billion. It’s thought to be the largest sum a traditional automaker has ever invested in a ride-hailing firm. In March, Singapore-based Grab bought out Uber’s business in the region in a multibillion-dollar deal. CNN
Tanked by a tweet
An eleventh-hour tweet by President Donald Trump seemed to seal the fate of Republican incumbent Rep. Mark Sanford in Tuesday’s South Carolina primary. State legislator Katie Arrington defeated Sanford, one of the president’s fiercest Republican critics, after Trump tweeted that Sanford was “nothing but trouble” and referenced the lawmaker’s 2009 extramarital affair. It’s the first time Trump has targeted a congressional Republican incumbent in the midterms. Washington Post
Not so fast
At the Fortune Most Powerful Women International Summit in London yesterday, the U.S ambassador to NATO seemed to disagree with her boss on Russia rejoining the G7. After President Donald Trump called for Russia’s readmission to the group last week, Kay Bailey Hutchison said she doesn’t think “we ought to go back to business as usual with Russia…until they change their behavior in some way that shows they might want to be part of a rules-based concept in the world.” Fortune
Around the Water Cooler
Top-tier law firms in the U.S. surpassed a new threshold in starting pay this month, with some elite law school graduates earning first-year associate salaries of $190,000. New York firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy set the new bar, two years after the last widespread pay bump that saw some junior lawyers make $180,000. Wall Street Journal
What if the emails you received during vacation were automatically deleted? The idea may seem unfathomable, but one professor put it into action in what The Atlantic is calling the ‘most honest out-of-office message’ ever. Atlantic
Measuring the ‘gas in the tank’
New York Magazine goes inside Netflix’s ‘binge factory’ with this feature that details how the streaming behemoth decides what shows to renew—and which ones to cancel—with mind-blowing efficiency. New York Magazine
You may not be familiar with Iqvia Holdings, but you should get to know the pharma company—and its CEO. The firm that collects and analyzes prescription sales, medical claims, and other patient records paid its chief executive the most of any pharmaceutical company last year. Boss Ari Bousbib raked in $38 million as Iqvia reported $8 billion in revenue. By comparison, J&J, with revenue of $76 billion, paid CEO Alex Gorsky $29.8 million. Wall Street Journal