Lawyers Fight AT&T/T-Mobile Merger Through Arbitration

A New York-based law firm, Bursor & Fisher, P.A., has implemented a creative strategy to challenge AT&Ts $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA: Oppose the merger through binding arbitration as laid out in AT&T’s wireless customer agreement.

The law firm has launched, an initiative to help prevent AT&T from swallowing T-Mobile USA under a merger that is being closely scrutinized by U.S. regulators.

Turning back the clock to the Ma Bell monopoly era will allow AT&T and Verizon to dictate what type of phone you can use, how you can use it, and what you will pay,” the firm declares on the website. It will destroy competition, leading to higher prices and worse service.”

Bursor & Fisher asserts that it has begun the process of initiating dozens of arbitrations on behalf of its customers in an effort to block the AT&T merger. The firm has agreed to represent clients on a contingency basis and advance all costs and expenses. The firm states that if it is successful in arbitration, its attorneys may be able to seek a $10,000 payment for a client pursuant to AT&Ts customer agreement related to arbitration.

AT&T, the second-largest U.S. wireless operator (98.6 million customers), has brushed aside the law firms initiative to oppose he merger.

The claims made by the Bursor & Fisher Law Firm are completely without merit,” an AT&T spokesperson told Ars Technica. An arbitrator has no authority to block the merger or affect the merger process in any way. Our arbitration provision allows customers to resolve their individual disputes with AT&T in a prompt and customer-friendly manner.”

The Clayton Antitrust Act allows a person who may be affected by a merger to sue in federal court to prevent the transaction if the effect of the deal is to create a monopoly or substantially decrease competition. The problem is AT&Ts wireless-customer agreements prohibit customers from suing in court for any reason and instead require arbitration, according to the law firm.

Bursor & Fisher provides a link  to AT&Ts wireless customer agreement. Section 2.1 of the contract requires that a customer resolve a dispute through binding arbitration or small claims court rather than through courts of general jurisdiction. The contract clause precludes class actions and class arbitrations.

Arbitration is less formal than a lawsuit in court, using a neutral arbitrator to decide a case rather than a judge or jury and is subject to very limited court review, AT&T explains in its customer agreement.

After a client has retained Bursor & Fisher, the firm will mail a letter on the clients behalf to AT&T, giving the company notice that the client intends to file an arbitration seeking to block AT&Ts acquisition of T-Mobile USA. The firm states that it will file a demand for arbitration on the clients behalf with the American Arbitration Association if AT&T does not agree to cease and desist from completing the merger within 30 days.

The demand will include extensive evidence and legal authority we have gathered to prove that AT&Ts takeover of T-Mobile will harm competition in violation of the Clayton Antitrust Act,” the firm asserts.

Bursor & Fisher has offices in California, Florida and New York. Scott A. Bursor, the firm’s founding partner, has represented customers in disputes with AT&T and other wireless carriers since 2002.

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