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T-Mobile, Sprint say DOJ approval of merger deserves 'proper weight'

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T-Mobile and Sprint have asked a federal judge to give "proper weight" to the Trump administration's approval of their US$26.5 billion merger, saying a group of states that sued to block the deal did not impartially consider the wireless companies' plan for preserving competition in the industry.

New York

T-MOBILE and Sprint have asked a federal judge to give "proper weight" to the Trump administration's approval of their US$26.5 billion merger, saying a group of states that sued to block the deal did not impartially consider the wireless companies' plan for preserving competition in the industry.

The states sued a month before T-Mobile and Sprint were required to sell assets to Dish Network to set up a new wireless competitor and, after learning of the plan, publicly declared it was inadequate "before it was even finalised", the companies said in a filing on Monday in a federal court in Manhattan.

Lawyers for New York and California, which are leading the lawsuit, argued this month that the deal's approval by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Communications Commission doesn't carry any special weight and should be ignored by the judge. The states also said the US didn't properly investigate the merger and contradicted its earlier positions on such deals by giving it the green light.

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In their filing on Monday, the companies pushed back.

"As the national enforcer of the antitrust laws, the DOJ actively reviewed the transaction and - using the same legal standard applied by this court - concluded that the transaction as modified yielded significant efficiencies that would result in lower prices and higher quality for consumers, and therefore did not substantially lessen competition," the companies said.

Washington Attorney-General Bob Ferguson asked the judge for permission to file his own submission, in which he said the Justice Department went too far in questioning the states' independent role in enforcing antitrust laws.

"DOJ's statement goes well beyond a substantive dispute, and essentially suggests that if DOJ has taken a position on an antitrust matter, the states have no authority to reach a contrary conclusion," he said. "DOJ has no authority for this assertion and, indeed, there is none." Washington is not a party to the lawsuit.

US District Judge Victor Marrero, who oversaw a two-week trial, will hear closing arguments in the case this week and rule without a jury. BLOOMBERG