T-Mobile to Defend Sprint Deal Before Democratic-Led House

(Bloomberg) -- T-Mobile US Inc. Chief Executive Officer John Legere and Sprint Corp. Chairman Marcelo Claure agreed to testify about their planned $26.5 billion merger before a Democratic-controlled House panel that is expected to bring tougher scrutiny to the consolidation of telecom giants.

The hearing, scheduled for Feb. 13, gives Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island, the chairman of the House antitrust subcommittee, an opportunity to examine a deal that would reduce the U.S. wireless market to three carriers. Cicilline has vowed to look into the rising concentration and market power wielded by companies in industries like technology and health care.

“A merger between T-Mobile and Sprint would combine two of the four largest wireless carriers and the carriers with the largest numbers of low-income customers," Cicilline said in a statement with Representatives Jerrold Nadler of New York, Frank Pallone of New Jersey and Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania. “As the committees with oversight of the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice, we must hold this hearing to examine the effects on important issues like jobs, costs to consumers, innovation and competition.”

Cicilline’s plans are part of a broader effort by Democrats, who took control of the House earlier this month, to increase congressional oversight of the Trump administration.

Legere and Claure touted the benefits of their deal before the Senate last year. Those included the advancement of the next generation of wireless technology known as 5G. While members of Congress don’t have a say on mergers, they do play a role in overseeing the officials who vet deals.

T-Mobile takeover of Sprint needs approval from the Justice Department’s antitrust division and the FCC.

The FCC on Jan. 2 said it was pausing its consideration of the deal as effects of the partial government shutdown took hold. As of late Monday, the FCC hadn’t formally restarted the clock that tracks 180 days of regulatory scrutiny, a timeline that remained on Day 84. The Justice Department’s investigation continued during the shutdown.

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