CPUC decision on T-Mobile/Sprint merger fades to March or later, as state attorneys general ask DC judge to wait

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Tmobile store la 23oct2019

The California Public Utilities Commission won’t vote on approving – or not – T-Mobile’s takeover of Sprint until mid-March at the earliest, assuming there’s no extraordinary attempt to speed up a decision. Yesterday was the 30-day deadline for posting a draft decision ahead of the commission’s 27 February 2020 voting meeting.

After that, the next scheduled meeting is on 12 March 2020. There’s no particular reason, though, to expect a draft decision to be published in time to make that meeting. Or any in March. April could be in doubt, too.

A federal judge in New York still has to issue a verdict in a lawsuit filed by California attorney general Xavier Becerra and others to block the merger. There’s no particular schedule the New York judge has to follow, so a ruling could come in hours or in months. The late February/early March time frame for that is a best guess of many observers who followed the trial closely.

The CPUC reviews telecoms mergers independently, so it could move ahead on its own. Even so, it is required by state law to ask Becerra for his opinion. Becerra could decline to offer his advice, or the CPUC could ignore it, but neither scenario is likely.

Becerra seems to be in favor of waiting. He hasn’t said anything publicly about the CPUC’s proceeding, but he presumably signed off on arguments his coalition of state attorneys general filed with another federal judge in Washington, D.C. That judge is conducting a more technical review of the T-Mobile/Sprint merger and the settlement the companies reached with federal antitrust enforcers. In the filing, the AGs suggest the D.C. judge “might wish to schedule any hearings and determination regarding the settlement for a date after the states’ merger suit was concluded”.

In other words, let us go first.