Thanks to a federal judge's decision this week to approve AT&T and Time Warner's $85 billion merger—which, if allowed to stand by the Trump Justice Department, will spawn a "massive media-telecom behemoth"—anti-monopoly advocates are ominously warning that a flood of major corporate acquisitions once considered "unthinkable" due to their potentially disastrous effects on consumers could be coming in the very near future.
"When big companies become so large they threaten to swallow government, the entire system is corrupted."
—Zephyr Teachout, New York attorney general candidate
"The gates are wide open for more deals [and] for the closure of these existing deals," billionaire investor and hedge fund manager Jamie Dinan acknowledged in an interview shortly before the AT&T-Time Warner deal officially closed on Thursday.
Confirming the fears of corporate critics, Dinan went on to cite just two examples of the kinds of deals Americans can expect to see finalized in the coming months following AT&T's successful acquisition of Time Warner, including CVS's proposed purchase of health insurance giant Aetna and Cigna's attempt to swallow the pharma company Express Scripts.
Comcast also moved to get in on the merger-fest this week, offering $65 billion in cash to purchase the television and film assets of 21st Century Fox just a day after the AT&T-Time Warner merger was approved.
As New York attorney general candidate Zephyr Teachout noted in an op-ed for the Guardian this week, these recently proposed mega-mergers are part of a broader trend of corporate consolidation that is "especially disturbing" in the aftermath of the FCC's net neutrality repeal, which gives telecom giants the power to discriminate against online content and raise costs on consumers.
"America is getting crushed by big, unresponsive, powerful corporate monopolies, the modern version of the trusts of the gilded age," Teachout wrote. "This isn't happening organically, but through mergers...These mergers hurt everyone except for the CEOs and the investors who make money off of monopolistic prices."
Trustbusting is an anti-corruption tool. When big companies become so large they threaten to swallow government, the entire system is corrupted. As your AG, I will use the Clayton Act and the Donnelly Act to fight against mergers that are bad for democracy.
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— Zephyr Teachout (@ZephyrTeachout) June 15, 2018
With the AT&T-Time Warner merger complete, we need to restore #NetNeutrality ASAP.
Otherwise ISPs like AT&T will hold unprecedented control over what content we see and hear online. Speak out at https://t.co/xSJHbL8rxN
— Fight for the Future (@fightfortheftr) June 15, 2018
And the dangers posed by mega-mergers reach far beyond higher prices for particular goods and services.
Because of the FCC's net neutrality repeal—which officially went into effect on Monday—Free Press policy director Matt Wood warned in a statement that the AT&T-Time Warner merger will create a supercharged telecom giant capable of "surveil[ing] its customers across the entire internet."
The Trump Justice Department's failure to make a successful case against the $85 billion merger "will now set off a wave of communications and media consolidation that was unthinkable even a few years ago," Wood concluded. "All of us, regardless of our broadband carrier and no matter what we watch, are about to see higher bills, fewer choices, worse quality for competing options, and a further erosion of our privacy rights."