Former AG Weighs in on Satellite Radio Merger

A group that has been fighting the proposed satellite radio merger inside Washington got a boost last week from a unique source.

Dick Thornburgh, a former attorney general for two presidents who now is an attorney for the D.C. law firm of Kirkpatrick and Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis, wrote the Federal Communications Commission on Friday concerning his take on the Justice Department's clearance of the pending XM/Sirius combination. His letter was sent to the FCC on behalf of the Consumer Coalition for Competition in Satellite Radio, a group that has been fighting the proposed deal.

In his letter, Thornburgh said a ruling from the Justice Department's antitrust division that found the merger would not lessen competition was "built upon a faulty foundation, ignores the facts of the satellite radio marketplace, and disregards substantial evidence" contrary to information provided by the coalition and others to the department.

"In my opinion, the DOJ decision reaches the wrong conclusion because it fails to give sufficient, perhaps any, weight to this evidence of direct competition," Thornburgh said in his letter to the FCC. He added that approval of the merger "in a rubber-stamp manner based on DOJ's decision will permanently foreclose competition in the satellite radio industry and irreparably harm the public interest."

Thornburgh urged commissioners to "exercise great caution" in their deliberations on the transaction. "Reliance on the DOJ decision alone will only lead to problematic and undesirable outcomes contrary to the public interest," he wrote.

Last week, the antitrust division at the Justice Department cleared the merger between XM and Sirius. The Federal Communications Commission is the remaining hurdle for the deal.