The AT&T logo is seen below the BellSouth Bell logo on the Main BellSouth building in Atlanta. (Photographer: Chris Rank/Bloomberg News.)

AT&T Trial Nears Ends With U.S. Antitrust Chief Sounding Upbeat

(Bloomberg) -- AT&T Inc. and U.S. antitrust enforcers are set for their final face-off in court over the phone giant’s planned takeover of Time Warner Inc. now that testimony in the merger trial ended.

The two sides will make closing arguments Monday in Washington before U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, who will decide whether to grant the Justice Department’s request to block AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner on antitrust grounds.

The Justice Department on Thursday finished questioning its final witness in the case, Professor Carl Shapiro, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley, who reemphasized his earlier testimony that the deal will reduce competition.

After Thursday’s session, Makan Delrahim, who heads of the antitrust division that sued to stop the deal, sounded upbeat about the government’s prospects and said both sides “did a great job” presenting their cases.

“We’ll see what happens,” he told reporters outside the courtroom. “I would never bring a case I don’t think I can win.”

The Justice Department claims the combination will raise prices for pay-TV subscribers across the country by hundreds of millions of dollars, an assertion that AT&T dismisses. On Thursday, government lawyers tried to introduce filings AT&T and its DirecTV unit made with the Federal Communications Commission that they say support the theory that the phone company will gain leverage over pay-TV rivals by acquiring Time Warner.

Leon barred the Justice Department from using the filings in its closing arguments after AT&T lawyer Daniel Petrocelli called the move an “inexcusable document dump” that the government was unsuccessful introducing earlier in the trial. Leon said it was too much information for him to consider so close to closing arguments.

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