Attorney General Barr reportedly recuses himself from DOJ's T-Mobile-Sprint decision

Attorney General Barr reportedly recuses himself from DOJ's T-Mobile-Sprint decision
The T-Mobile-Sprint merger was announced almost exactly one year ago today and has not yet closed. The $26.5 billion transaction still requires the approval of the FCC and the Justice Department before it becomes a done deal. To be fair, the FCC has had to halt its review of the merger three times; the first time, T-Mobile had filed a revised set of documents related to the merger and the FCC needed more time to go over them. The second delay was due to the government shutdown last year. Last month, the agency said that it would add three more weeks to the review process to allow U.S. consumers to comment on the merger.

As far as the Justice Department is concerned, the New York Post had an interesting report today. A source with direct knowledge of the situation says that Attorney General William Barr has recused himself from future Justice Department discussions about the T-Mobile-Sprint merger. In other words, Barr will not be involved in the decision made to approve or reject the deal.

The Attorney General apparently has a few conflicts related to T-Mobile, Sprint and their rival AT&T. Barr sat on Time Warner's board until the entertainment giant was acquired last year by AT&T. He still owns AT&T vested stock options valued at between $250,000 and $500,000. Barr also has some T-Mobile and Sprint bonds in his portfolio; he has until May 14th to sell them. That would be 90 days from his confirmation as Attorney General. Barr's recusal will give Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, head of the Department of Justice’s antitrust division, the final say about whether the DOJ allows the merger to happen.

The Justice Department might have already made a decision. Two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal said that members of the Justice Department's antitrust division have already told T-Mobile and Sprint executives that the deal, as presently structured, will not be approved. T-Mobile CEO John Legere adamantly denied that story, and just yesterday, both T-Mobile and Sprint decided to extend the deadline for the merger to close. The previous deadline was April 28th and has been now pushed back to July 29th.

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