Shifting gears in its new “victim” strategy, AT&T on Thursday darkly implied that the Federal Communications Commission was, for some unspecified reasons, “predisposed” to opposing the company’s $39 billion acquisition of rival T-Mobile USA.
AT&T offered no probable motives behind the FCC's opposition to the deal and its release of a 109-page staff report which concluded that the merger, if approved, would hurt consumers and lead to a net loss of American jobs.
Instead, Jim Cicconi, AT&T senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs, indignantly accuses the FCC of treating the wireless giant in a terribly unfair and arbitrary manner that could threaten our economic recovery.
"We expected that the AT&T-T-Mobile transaction would receive careful, considered, and fair analysis. Unfortunately, the preliminary FCC Staff Analysis offers none of that. The document is so obviously one-sided that any fair-minded person reading it is left with the clear impression that it is an advocacy piece, and not a considered analysis. In our view, the report raises questions as to whether its authors were predisposed. The report cherry-picks facts to support its views, and ignores facts that don't. Where facts were lacking, the report speculates, with no basis, and then treats its own speculations as if they were fact. This is clearly not the fair and objective analysis to which any party is entitled, and which we have every right to expect. All any company can properly ask when they present a matter to the government is a fair hearing and objective treatment based on factual findings. The FCC's report makes clear that neither occurred on our merger, at least within the pages of this report. This has not been our past experience with the agency, which lets us hope for and expect better in the future.
This kind of victim language is laced throughout Cicconi's lengthy response: "The report blatantly ignores facts, and instead substitutes speculation and hypotheticals" ... "The report's competitive analysis willfully ignores critical facts about the wireless market, and distorts the evidence presented" ... "an obvious attempt to manipulate data to support the report's conclusion" ... "the utter absence of balance is clear, and demonstrates that the document lacks all credibility."
Strong allegations of bias and/or incompetence. But they beg the question: What would the FCC's motives be for opposing the T-Mobile deal? Is the agency reflexively anti-merger?
Well, in January the FCC approved Comcast's takeover of NBC Universal. Last year it approved Frontier's purchase of Verizon's rural lines in 14 states. In 2009 it approved AT&T's acquisition of Centennial Communications. So clearly the FCC approves plenty of mergers.
Maybe the FCC staff harbors a bias against AT&T itself. Again, the agency approved AT&T's Centennial deal.
Or maybe, just maybe, the FCC -- along with the Justice Department -- is doing its job by studying a potential merger's antitrust implications and concluding, based on its analysis (and not AT&T's lobbying and PR campaign), that consumers would be poorly served by the elimination of a major wireless carrier.
I side with the FCC on this, but since I'm not an AT&T attorney, I can't possibly be fair-minded or objective.