US deal with DirecTV settles California baseball case


The US Justice Department on Thursday announced a deal with DirecTV (EUREX: 19071070.EX - news) to settle charges that it shared information with competitors negotiating to broadcast games played by a California baseball team.

The settlement prohibits DirecTV and its parent corporation, AT&T (Sao Paolo: ATTB34.SA - news) , from illegally sharing confidential information with competitors and puts in place training and monitoring steps.

The DOJ's antitrust division filed a complaint against DirecTV late last year contending that the company "acted as the ringleader" in exchanges of information with Cox Communications, Charter Communications (NasdaqGS: CHTR - news) and AT&T in 2014 as they were negotiating to carry SportsNet LA, which has exclusive rights to broadcast live Dodgers baseball games in the Los Angeles area.

AT&T had not yet acquired DirecTV.

The information exchanged included whether the companies planned to carry the "Dodgers Channel," providing bargaining leverage and cutting the risk a rival would broadcast the baseball games if one of the companies opted not to do so, according to the DOJ complaint.

What the companies learned from one another affected their decisions not to broadcast the channel, the DOJ argued.

"When competitors email, text, or otherwise share confidential and strategically sensitive information with each other to avoid competing, consumers lose," acting assistant attorney general Brent Snyder of the antitrust division said in a statement.

"Today's settlement promotes competition among pay-television providers and prevents AT&T and DIRECTV from engaging in illegal conduct that thwarts the competitive process."

No fine was sought in the case.

The settlement comes as AT&T seeks clearance from regulators to close an $85 billion megadeal to merge with Time Warner (Frankfurt: A0RGAY - news) .

President Donald Trump, who has not hesitated to engage in public bargaining with major corporations, said prior to his election in November that he opposed the pending merger, announced in October. But he has been mum since the election.