U.S. FCC names heads of Comcast/TWC, AT&T/DirecTV deal reviews

Companies have to convince the FCC that their mergers are in the public interest for the deals to go ahead

Reuters

(Reuters) - A U.S. Federal Communications Commission lawyer will lead the agency's review of the proposed merger of Comcast Corp and Time Warner Cable Inc, while an external lawyer will join to lead the review of AT&T Inc's bid for DirecTV, the FCC said on Monday.

Hillary Burchuk, a former lawyer at the U.S. Justice Department's antitrust division who joined the FCC in 2011, will head the agency's working team reviewing the proposed $45.2 billion merger between two largest U.S. cable providers, Comcast and Time Warner Cable. The team will also review Comcast's related deal with Charter Communications Inc.

Jamillia Ferris, also a former antitrust lawyer at the Justice Department, will join the FCC from law firm Hunton & Williams LLP to lead the team reviewing the proposed $48.5 billion merger between No. 2 wireless carrier AT&T and biggest satellite TV service provider DirecTV.

Burchuk in 2011 was involved in the Justice Department's lawsuit to block the proposed merger between U.S. wireless carriers AT&T and T-Mobile, court documents show.

Ferris from 2010 to 2013 served as deputy chief of staff and then chief of staff and counsel to U.S. antitrust chief Bill Baer and was involved in suing Apple Inc and book publishers for e-book price fixing, according to her online biography.

Documents do not show either being involved in the Justice Department's 2011 settlement that allowed Comcast to buy programmer NBC Universal with conditions.

The companies have to convince the FCC that their mergers are in the public interest for the deals to go ahead. The Justice Department can also move to block the deals if it finds they violate antitrust laws.

The two review teams will report to a steering committee chaired by FCC General Counsel Jonathan Sallet, which will also include the chiefs of the FCC's wireline competition and wireless telecommunications bureaus, the agency announced.

Several members of the office of the FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will also be involved as the review process moves forward, an FCC official said - legal adviser Maria Kirby, special counsel for external affairs Gigi Sohn, senior counselor Philip Verveer and chief of staff Ruth Milkman.

Northwestern University professors William Rogerson and Shane Greenstein will serve as senior economist and senior economic consultant on both mergers, the FCC said.

(Reporting by Alina Selyukh in Toronto; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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