The controversy surrounding Judge Emmet Sullivan’s review of the merger consent decrees entered into among Verizon Communications Inc., AT&T Corp. and the U.S. Department of Justice is shining the spotlight both on the boundaries of independent judicial review in assessing the impact of antitrust consent decrees on market competition, and on the implications of a more stringent evaluation of future mergers.

Sullivan, of the U.S. District Court in Washington, has delayed a ruling on whether to grant his required approval of the SBC Communications Inc.-AT&T Corp. and Verizon Communications-MCI Inc. mergers. The judge recently took umbrage at comments from a Verizon attorney who said that company’s merger would not be undone by the court, and he vowed to finish his independent review.

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