T-Mobile, Sprint sandbag themselves as California’s merger review is bumped a month

27 February 2019 by Steve Blum
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A document dump by T-Mobile and Sprint backfired at the California Public Utilities Commission. The administrative law judge managing the commission’s review of the proposed merger of the two companies gave opponents four extra weeks to digest and rebut thousands of pages of material submitted shortly before hearings were held earlier this month.

In his ruling, ALJ Karl Bemesderfer rejected a request by the CPUC’s public advocates office (PAO] for a second round of hearings, but acknowledged that T-Mobile and Sprint did not leave enough time to review all the documents they dropped on the CPUC…

Regardless of whether Joint Applicants’ rebuttal testimony contains new evidence and arguments, the sheer volume of the material together with the complexity of the subject matter has worked a disadvantage to [the PAO] that requires a remedy…

Accordingly, the schedule in this proceeding will be adjusted by moving the date for submission of opening briefs to March 29, 2019 and the date for submission of reply briefs to April 12, 2019. The anticipated date for a proposed decision remains unchanged; consequently, I find that the revised schedule does not work a hardship on Joint Applicants.

Originally, opening briefs were supposed to be submitted this Friday, 1 March 2019. Bemesderfer is arguably correct in saying that the timeline hasn’t changed, but that’s because it was vague. The final schedule set by the commissioner overseeing the inquiry, Clifford Rechtschaffen, called for publishing a proposed decision in “2nd Quarter 2019”. So long as the CPUC’s proposed decision is posted before the end of June, that schedule will be met. But four more weeks is four more weeks, and the two companies are not happy about it.

Commission rules require a 30 day public review period before a vote can be taken, which means the proposed decision might not come before the commission until sometime in July or even August. That said, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Bemesderfer finishes his draft decision by mid-May, which would leave enough time for a final decision to be reached in June.

Collected documents, dumped and otherwise, from the CPUC’s review of the proposed merger of Sprint and T-Mobile are here.