Nov 17, 2017

Antitrust chief's comments sound ominous for AT&T-Time Warner

Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division nominee Makan Delrahim testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on his nomination in May 2017. Cliff Owens / AP

The Justice Department's top antitrust cop laid out some clues about his merger philosophy — and it doesn't bode well for AT&T's proposed $85 billion takeover of Time Warner.Both companies have pushed for "behavioral remedies" — in other words, conditions to prevent specific anticompetitive behaviors by merging companies — to address antitrust concerns.Don't hold your breath: In a speech yesterday DOJ antitrust chief Makan Delrahim said such fixes are more like temporary band-aids and hard to enforce. He was critical of specific deals approved with behavioral conditions, like Comcast/NBCU, Google/ITA and LiveNation/Ticketmaster."I believe the [DOJ] should fairly review offers to settle but also be skeptical of those consisting of behavioral remedies or divestitures that only partially remedy the likely harm," he said.Instead: He made it clear he prefers "structural" solutions, which would usually involve selling off major assets. "Behavioral remedies often require companies to make daily decisions contrary to their profit-maximizing incentives, and they demand ongoing monitoring and enforcement to do that effectively," he said. "It is the wolf of regulation dressed in the sheep's clothing of a behavioral decree."Between the lines: In this case, a structural fix could involve divestitures of Turner (the owner of CNN) or DirectTV, which has been floated in press reports. Both those assets are key to AT&T's plan for a content and delivery powerhouse.

Go deeper

Warren sees bump in national poll following Nevada debate

Photo by David Becker/Getty Images.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren surged to 19% and second place in a CBS News/YouGov national poll released Sunday, trailing front-runner Sen. Bernie Sanders (28%) but edging out Joe Biden (17%) and Michael Bloomberg (13%).

Why it matters: The poll notes that only 42% of Democratic primary voters have made up their minds. While Warren underperformed in the first three states, her strong debate performance in Nevada last week may have given her campaign new life.

Pence aide says intel report of Russia helping Trump is "false information"

Marc Short. Screenshot: Fox News

Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, claimed on "Fox News Sunday" that the White House has not received intelligence that Russia is seeking to help President Trump win re-election, calling it "false information" that has been selectively leaked by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee.

The big picture: Short and national security adviser Robert O'Brien both dismissed reports published in the Washington Post and New York Times last week about a briefing provided by top election security official Shelby Pierson, an aide to outgoing acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire.

Bernie's juggernaut

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks in San Antonio last night with his wife, Jane. Photo: Eric Gay/AP

Sen. Bernie Sanders won so big in the Nevada caucuses that Democrats are hard-pressed to sketch a way he's not their nominee.

Driving the news: With 60% of precincts counted (slow, but better than Iowa!), Sanders is running away with 46% of delegates — crushing Joe Biden's 20%, Pete Buttigieg's 15%, Sen. Elizabeth Warren's 10% and Sen. Amy Klobuchar's 5%.