Ina Fried

Recent Posts by Ina Fried

Law Firm Says 1,000 Customer Arbitration Cases Filed Seeking to Stop AT&T-T-Mobile Deal

A law firm hoping to use arbitration complaints to stop AT&T’s planned $39 billion deal to buy T-Mobile said on Tuesday that more than 1,000 people have agreed to file challenges to the deal.

Bursor & Fisher, which has specialized in law suits against wireless carriers, last month said it was aiming to use AT&T’s mandatory arbitration clause against the firm.

“There seems to be a real groundswell against this merger,” lawyer Scott A. Bursor said in a statement. “The good news is that it can be stopped. AT&T’s contracts give every customer the right to arbitration. And we’ve assembled a team of lawyers standing by ready to represent them on a purely contingent basis, with no out-of-pocket costs whatsoever.”

AT&T maintains the arbitrators have no authority to weigh in on the T-Mobile deal.

“Putting aside for the moment that our merger will provide tremendous benefits for customers — a fact that’s been recognized by consumers, public officials and groups of all stripes — the bottom line is an arbitrator has no authority to block the merger or affect the merger process in any way,” an AT&T representative told AllThingsD on Tuesday. “This action is a waste of time and money because AT&T’s arbitration agreement with our customers — recently upheld by the Supreme Court — allows individual relief for individual claims. It specifically prohibits any proceeding seeking broad relief like the Bursor & Fisher law firm has filed.”

Of course it will be up to the arbitrators, and perhaps the courts, to ultimately determine whether or not they have authority to block the deal. The deal, for sure, needs the approval of the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice, both of which are reviewing it.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald