The Work

September 22, 2011 6:01 PM

Two More Firms Enter Great AT&T/T-Mobile USA Antitrust Fight

Posted by Brian Baxter

AT&T and T-Mobile USA are adding to their formidable roster of outside legal advisers as part of an all-out bid aimed at keeping their proposed $39 billion merger afloat.

The Justice Department filed an amended complaint last week in its suit seeking to scuttle the merger between the two telecommunications companies announced earlier this year.

The Am Law Daily has previously reported on the long list of outside lawyers lining up to represent AT&T and T-Mobile USA—a unit of Deutsche Telekom—as the proposed transaction faced stiff antitrust and regulatory scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.

A quick primer: Sullivan & Cromwell is acting as deal counsel to AT&T, Arnold & Porter and Crowell & Moring are serving as antitrust counsel to the Dallas-based company, and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr is providing counsel on FCC issues. Sidley Austin, a longtime legal adviser to AT&T, was added to the team in May.

For its part, Deutsche Telekom has previously tapped Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz for the sale of the company's Bellevue, Wash.–based T-Mobile USA unit, with Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and Wiley Rein providing antitrust and FCC counsel, respectively.

Last week two more firms entered the fray.

Michael Kellogg, a name and founding partner of Washington, D.C.–based litigation boutique Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, has been added to AT&T's outside counsel roster, along with fellow partners Mark Hansen, Aaron Panner, and James Webster III. (The Wall Street Journal reported this week that AT&T's general counsel, D. Wayne Watts, was blindsided by the Justice Department's antitrust suit against the company.)

Richard Parker, chair of the antitrust and competition practice at O'Melveny & Myers, has also signed on to represent T-Mobile USA in the matter. Parker is considered an exceptional trial lawyer on antitrust matters. "[Parker's hire] shows that they wanted to make sure if they have to go to trial, they have a really good person who's familiar with trying cases, not just thinking about them," Andrew Gavil, an antitrust law professor at Howard University's School of Law, told Reuters this week.

On Wednesday, U.S. district court judge Ellen Huvelle scheduled a mid-February date to begin what is expected to be a six-week trial in the matter, according to sibling publication The National Law Journal. Huvelle set the schedule after lawyers for AT&T appeared in her court this week seeking a "prompt trial" in hopes of closing on the company's acquisition of T-Mobile USA, Bloomberg reports.

Attorneys general from seven states—California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington—have joined the Justice Department's suit to block the merger. The government has assembled a formidable 25-lawyer team of its own, the members of which we previously covered here.

Am Law 100 firms have also grabbed roles representing telecom rivals of AT&T that have a vested interest in blocking its purchase of T-Mobile USA, which if completed, would make AT&T the largest wireless carrier in the country.

Steptoe & Johnson antitrust head Kenneth Ewing and partner Chong Park are representing Ridgeland, Miss.–based regional carrier Cellular South in a suit filed this week against AT&T over its proposed tie-up with T-Mobile USA. Cellular South is also being advised by lawyers from Mississippi firms Forman Perry Watkins Krutz & Tardy and Brunini, Grantham, Grower & Hewes.

Earlier this month Sprint Nextel turned to lawyers from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom for its own suit against AT&T, according to our previous reports. Sprint Nextel is currently the nation's third-largest wireless carrier.

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I think that given the position Sprint took at the hearing Wednesday, these two new voices (Sprint and Cell South) will be exiting at the court's first chance to rule on a motion to dismiss. That's not a knock on Sprint, it just seems like Sprint wants no part of this case anymore. Why do I think so? Here's why:

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