"The impact from this decision will have wide reaching ramifications across the telecommunications, media, and tech industry for decades to come", said GBH Insights analyst Dan Ives.
The AT&T and Time Warner merger has officially been approved. AT&T lawyers initially sought email correspondence between Trump's White House and the Justice Department, but Leon declared that any communications were not relevant to the trial, and AT&T relented. The $85 billion move has been on hold for more than a year. Looming in the background of the deal has been Trump's long-running feud with Time Warner's CNN, which he has often derided as "failing" and a purveyor of "fake news".
Leon said the evidence and testimony provided by the government were faulty and that it never proved the merged entity would have increased leverage over its competitors.
Judge Leon reportedly put no conditions on the deal and the result of this case stands to have far-reaching effects on the media landscape and other groups considering or seeking vertical mergers.
AT&T argued that the merger will help customers without harming AT&T's business rivals, and that the combined company wouldn't have enough market power to raise antitrust concerns. The Judge also said the DOJ should appeal the ruling or ask for a stay that could force AT&T to pay Time Warner a fee. For instance, AT&T could charge other content providers (including Verizon, which owns HuffPost's parent company, Oath) artificially high prices to air the cable channels it acquired through Time Warner.
As a candidate for president, Trump vowed to block the merger, stating it would concentrate too much power in one company.
During the trial, the judge heard from dozens of witnesses, including AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes. The loss is a black eye for the Justice Department. Comcast is also expected to make a bid for 21 Century Fox's television division.
The companies' main economist, Dennis Carlton from the University of Chicago, refuted Shapiro's model as overly complicated and rejected his conclusions. He rejected the government's argument that it would hurt competition in pay TV and cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars more to stream TV and movies. In fact, he suggested, consumers could end up paying less after a merger - maybe even $500 million less annually. The combination would push technology forward and give consumers more choices, AT&T has promised.
David McAtee, AT&T's general counsel, said AT&T (T) expected to close the deal by June 20.
AT&T and Time Warner said they need to combine in order to better compete with Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), Netflix (NFLX) and Google (GOOG), companies that are already powerhouses in the content game.