A Washington federal judge this afternoon ordered the U.S. Justice Department's blockbuster antitrust case challenging the AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile USA merger be put on hold, at least until January.
Justice Department antitrust attorneys and lawyers for AT&T jointly asked U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle to stay the proceedings.
In a joint motion to stay (PDF) in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, lawyers for the opposing sides asked Huvelle to set a status conference for Jan. 18.
Huvelle last week scheduled a hearing for Thursday. That hearing is now scrapped at the request of the lawyers. The judge was expected to address the next steps in the government’s suit, which alleges the proposed deal would harm consumers.
The order Huvelle signed this afternoon requires AT&T to file a status report by Jan. 12 describing the posture of the company’s proposed $39 billion transaction to acquire T-Mobile.
The company's filing must address, among other things, whether AT&T intends to move forward with the deal or proceed with another transaction.
Last week, Justice Department antitrust lawyer Joseph Wayland said the government would either ask Huvelle this week to dismiss the government’s complaint without prejudice or to stay the proceedings. Wayland said the government filed suit in the first place because of AT&T's pending transaction.
AT&T’s lawyers, including Mark Hansen of Washington’s Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, said last week they wanted the antitrust suit to move forward even though the company withdrew its acquisition application from the Federal Communications Commission.
Hansen told Huvelle that a ruling from her on the merits of the proposed transaction would aid proceedings from the FCC. The judge expressed concern, however, that there was no assurance from AT&T when it proceed at the FCC.
Huvelle today ordered AT&T to submit "their anticipated plans and timetable for seeking any necessary approval from the Federal Communications Commission."