Sen. Franken wants Justice Dept. to investigate Comcast


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Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who has been outspoken about his concerns with Comcast Corp.’s proposed deal to take over control of NBC Universal, has asked the Justice Department to investigate whether the cable giant was violating antitrust rules.

In a letter to Christine Varney, the assistant attorney general for antitrust and the official who is overseeing the Justice Department’s review of the merger, Franken said Comcast might be ‘seeking to indirectly exert managerial and operational control’ of NBC Universal before its deal closes.


Franken was writing in response to Comcast’s announcement last week outlining the executive structure of NBC Universal after the merger is complete. The company unveiled the management team it said would head NBC Universal. Left out of that team and leaving after the deal closes are top NBC Universal executives Jeff Zucker and Jeff Gaspin.

This act, Franken said, may make Comcast guilty of ‘gun-jumping.’ Citing the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, Franken said the law ‘prohibits certain merging companies from acquiring ‘beneficial ownership, whether direct or indirect,’ of one another before the end of a federally mandated waiting period.’

That, Franken added, ‘may also facilitate and encourage NBC Universal personnel to provide their prospective superiors with competitively sensitive information.’

Franken also noted that back in September after Comcast Chief Operating Officer Steve Burke was named head of NBC Universal, the company said there would be ‘no additional structural or personnel announcements until the deal closing process and timing is certain.’

In a statement, Comcast said there was nothing out of the ordinary in anything it had done regarding NBC Universal.

“Transition and integration planning is common, proper, and expected in a transaction of this type,’ a company spokeswoman said, adding that ‘NBC Universal has remained in total control of all decision making to date, Comcast has had no role in NBC Universal business operations.’

-- Joe Flint

Related post: Comcast unveils NBC Universal management team