Justice Dept. Lawyers May Recommend Blocking Comcast/Time Warner Cable Deal (Report)

Brian Roberts Comcast CEO - H 2014
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

After the recommendation goes to top officials next week, it will be up to them to decide whether to file a suit to block the deal.

Antitrust lawyers at the U.S. Department of Justice are close to recommending that Comcast's pending $45.2 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable be blocked by the government, according to a report Friday by Bloomberg News.

The lawyers apparently have concluded that the combination would hurt consumers.

Their findings are expected to be presented to top Justice Department officials as soon as next week. It will then be up to the attorney general and his top aides to decide whether to block the deal.

If they agree with the staff lawyers, the Justice Department would probably proceed by filing a lawsuit asking a federal judge to block the transaction. That could cause long delays and might lead to the deal falling apart.

The Justice lawyers are poised to make this recommendation without discussions with Comcast about possible conditions to remedy their concerns, which indicates this is being taken seriously.

A TWC spokesman said that they have been working "productively" with the Justice Department, and a spokesperson for Comcast said, "There is no basis for a lawsuit to block the transaction," which the cable giant believes "will result in significant consumer benefits."

On April 14, several hundred people protested against the Comcast/TWC deal before a meeting of the California Public Utilities Commission.

Among the protesters were members of the Writers Guild of America, West. In a statement at the rally, Shawn Ryan, who is a WGA board member, said the combination would expand "control of content distribution" and "increase [Comcast's] power to pay programmers less and charge consumers more."