Mergers & acquisitions

FCC's McDowell (Again) Declines to Vote

Commissioner Robert McDowell surprised many on Monday by again refusing to take part in an FCC vote on the merger of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and BellSouth Corp. (NYSE: BLS)

"I have no choice but to disqualify myself from this matter," McDowell said during a press conference at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Monday afternoon. "The American people expect their representatives to make tough decisions; they also expect their public officers to operate under the highest ethical code."

McDowell had disqualified himself earlier due to his recent employment by the CLEC group Incompas , leaving the remaining four commissioners deadlocked at 2-2 along party lines. McDowell stuck to his guns Monday despite what D.C. sources called "heavy pressure" to do otherwise. Some of that pressure, sources say, came from FCC chairman Kevin Martin. (See FCC's McDowell: I'm No Dropout.)

McDowell also expressed frustration at his fellow commissioners' inability to approve the merger without him. "I have encouraged my colleagues to work together to resolve this matter, but to no avail," McDowell said. "My recusal has actually been used as a reason for more delays; this state of affairs has been personally disappointing to me."

McDowell was cleared last week by FCC general counsel Sam Feder to vote on the merger. But McDowell complained Monday that Feder didn't provide him a bullet-proof legal argument for participating. "I was expecting body armour, and what I got was Swiss cheese," McDowell said. (See McDowell May Vote on AT&T-BellSouth Merger.)

The FCC holds its next meeting December 20, but so far the AT&T/BellSouth matter is not on the agenda.

AT&T has been trying to get the government's blessing on its BellSouth merger since last March. (See FCC Balks at AT&T/BellSouth Merger Vote, AT&T Rages at FCC Delay, and Cisco to FCC: Hurry Up!)

The absorption of BellSouth into AT&T would create a huge national communications carrier in a deal now being valued at around $84 billion. Opponents of the merger worry that putting so much broadband access into the control of so few hands will lead to trouble for consumers. (See Ma Bell Is Back! and The New AT&T is No Cable Killer.)

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 3:32:08 AM
re: FCC's McDowell (Again) Declines to Vote What is McDowell afraid of that he needs such protection? Protection from what, ATT or his old employer?
optodoofus 12/5/2012 | 3:32:07 AM
re: FCC's McDowell (Again) Declines to Vote What is wrong with the FCC? Why are they paralyzed? Just make the best decision you can and move on. Regardless of the outcome, someone will be upset, but doing nothing is just not an option.

Is the government allowed to declare a mistrial, dismiss the FCC and pick a new one? It works for juries, why not for beaurocrats?

materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 3:32:03 AM
re: FCC's McDowell (Again) Declines to Vote Dear opto:
Just look at Iraq. This lame duck FCC seems like business as usual for this ship of fools. No one is in charge.
fgoldstein 12/5/2012 | 3:32:03 AM
re: FCC's McDowell (Again) Declines to Vote Read McDowell's statement. He is quite scathing about his alleged permission to participate. He said that the FCC Counsel (working for Martin) should have given him armor, but instead he got "swiss cheese". When he was nominated, he signed a pledge not to vote on matters he had previously participated in during, IIRC, the past year. That is still in effect.

Perhaps McDowell believes that his own personal integrity and future trust, especially with a Democratic Congress, is worth more than a fat bonus for the I-bankers who are trying to do the SBC-BS deal.
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