Time Warner’s chief legal officer berated and made threatening gestures and remarks toward U.S. Department of Justice lawyers during a November 2017 meeting over the media company’s proposed merger with AT&T, according to declarations filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The government lawyers’ claim was contradicted, however, in a declaration from William Barr, a Time Warner board member who served in the 1990s as U.S. attorney general.
Included in a court filing made public Thursday were declarations by Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim and his deputy, Andrew Finch, stating that Paul T. Cappuccio, who attended the meeting as Time Warner’s chief legal officer, intimated that he would cause problems for the Antitrust Division if they were to pursue their case against the merger between AT&T and Time Warner.
The exchange of declarations came in a case captioned United States v. AT&T assigned to U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon of the District of Columbia.
Cappuccio is now executive vice president of industry policy and government affairs for WarnerMedia. He has not offered a declaration in the court case.
Delrahim stated in his own declaration that Cappuccio, who was Time Warner’s chief legal officer at the time, made hostile remarks following the meeting’s conclusion.
“Mr. Cappuccio stood up from his seat at the conference table, wagged his finger at me, and said that if the Antitrust Division goes through with this, the case will be ‘a sh*tshow like you’ve never seen,’” Delrahim stated.
Cappuccio allegedly compared said rhetorical “sh*tshow” to media firestorms such as those surrounding the late Teamsters boss “Jimmy Hoffa and the firing of Jim Comey” as FBI chief by President Donald Trump.
But Barr, in his own declaration to the court, offered a different account of the meeting.
Barr, a Time Warner board member, contradicted Delrahim’s recollection of some elements of Cappuccio’s behavior. Barr, who served as U.S. attorney general from 1991 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush, had been described by Delrahim as “uncomfortable” following Cappuccio’s purported outburst.
But Barr did not characterize Cappuccio as having had an outburst.
“Mr. Cappuccio did not stand up and wag his finger at Mr. Delrahim and I do not recall any references to either James Comey or Jimmy Hoffa,” Barr said, describing the Justice Department official’s recollections as “incorrect.”
“No reasonable person could have misinterpreted Mr. Cappuccio’s comments as a threat that the companies would personally attack Mr. Delrahim or anyone else in the event of litigation,” Barr stated.
Delrahim said he interpreted the GC’s comments as threatening.
“I interpreted Mr. Cappuccio’s comments to mean that if we brought this enforcement action, defendants would employ personal attacks to denigrate the integrity of the Antitrust Division and myself,” Delrahim continued. “As assistant attorney general, my role is to improve the institution and preserve its integrity. Political influence has no place in the Antitrust Division’s review of proposed acquisitions, and it had no role in the Antitrust Division’s decisions regarding the transaction.”
Read the filing from the DOJ’s case against AT&T and Time Warner’s merger:
Finch’s declaration corroborates Delrahim’s account of the meeting.
The Justice Department is currently appealing a judge’s June 12 decision to allow AT&T to proceed with its acquisition of Time Warner.
In a statement, an AT&T spokesman said the company’s opinion of the government’s lawsuit is “no secret.”
“We appreciate former Attorney General Barr stepping forward to provide his first-hand account of DOJ’s interactions with us in the days prior to filing suit,” the statement said.
Lead attorney for the government in the case is Craig Conrath, the director of litigation for the Antitrust Division.
Listed as lead counsel for Time Warner in the matter was Christine A. Varney of Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York.
Listed as representing AT&T in the case were Kenneth M. Fetterman and Aaron M. Panner, both of Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick in Washington; and Katrina M. Robson of O’Melveny & Myers in Washington.