T-Mobile’s request to speed up California review of Sprint deal rejected by CPUC

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Without waiting for responses from opponents, administrative law judge Karl Bemesderfer denied motions made by T-Mobile and Sprint in an attempt to speed up the California Public Utilities Commission’s review of their proposed merger yesterday. His decision was short and to the point…

After considering the motions I have determined that all of them should be denied.

No reason was given, but on the other hand T-Mobile (and junior partner Sprint) didn’t offer any new facts or arguments in making the requests. They filed four motions (links below) on Tuesday which asked for exceptions to various CPUC rules and procedures that, in aggregate, would have resulted in the commission voting on whether or not to allow the merger on 26 March 2020, instead of on 16 April 2020 as currently scheduled. The companies want to close the transaction on 1 April 2020.

CPUC procedures allow either commissioners or an administrative law judge (ALJ) to rule on motions. T-Mobile’s requests were, as customary, addressed to commissioners. Typically – I would say always, but I’d bet there are exceptions in the CPUC’s century-plus history – it’s the ALJ who rules on motions when a case is still in progress.

The motions and Bemesderfer’s denial could open a path for T-Mobile to ask a state or federal court to intervene in the CPUC’s review. Appeals of regulatory agency decisions are usually only allowed after all of the agency’s procedural steps have been completed. Filing a motion for reconsideration of Bemesderfer’s schedule appears to tick that box.

Presiding Officer’s Ruling Denying Motions for Reconsideration and to Shorten Time, 5 March 2020

T-Mobile and Sprint (aka Joint Applicants) CPUC motions, 3 March 2020
Motion of Joint Applicants for Reconsideration of the Presiding Officer’s Ruling Revising Schedule
Motion of Joint Applicants to Shorten the Review and Comment Periods for Proposed Decision
Motion of Joint Applicants to Shorten Time to Respond to the Motion for Reconsideration of the Presiding Officer’s Ruling Revising Schedule
Motion of Joint Applicants to Shorten Time to Respond to the Motion of Joint Applicants to Shorten the Review and Comment Periods for Proposed Decision

Links to arguments and exhibits filed at the CPUC and elsewhere are here.

My clients include California cities who do business with T-Mobile. I like to think that has no bearing on my commentary. Take it for what it’s worth.