U.S. Poised to Wrap AT&T Merger Case as Economist Set to Testify

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. antitrust enforcers are set to conclude their case against AT&T Inc.’s proposed takeover of Time Warner Inc. as their economic expert -- a critical witness for the government -- is scheduled to take the stand Wednesday.

Professor Carl Shapiro from the University of California at Berkeley will testify that AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner would raise costs for pay-TV consumers across the country by hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

That finding is the backbone of the Justice Department’s case that the merger of the two companies would be anti-competitive and should be blocked by a federal judge. AT&T disputes that prices will go up as a result of the deal. The company will put its own expert, Professor Dennis Carlton of the University of Chicago, on the witness stand Thursday.

Shapiro’s testimony will mark the end of the evidence offered by the government against the $85 billion takeover, as the last fact witnesses testified Tuesday. Madison “Matt” Bond, the chairman of content distribution for NBCUniversal, testified in a closed-door session, followed by Dan York, AT&T’s chief content officer. York testified earlier and was recalled by the government.

Deposition testimony from former Cable One Inc. executive Randy Sejen was read into the court’s record of the trial Tuesday. Sejen said in his deposition that when programming negotiations with Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting unit broke down in 2013 and Turner channels were unavailable, Cable One didn’t lose that many subscribers.

That undercuts the government’s argument that Turner programming is so important that AT&T would gain leverage through the deal and be able to charge higher prices for the content.

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