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United States v. Alltel Corp. Proposed Final Judgment and Competitive Impact Statement

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Notice is hereby given, pursuant to the Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act, 15 U.S.C. 16(b)-(h), that a Complaint, proposed Final Judgment, Preservation of Assets Stipulation, and Competitive Impact Statement were filed with the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota in United States v. ALLTEL Corp., Civ. Action No. 0:06-cv-03631 (RHK/AJB). On September 7, 2006, the United States filed a Complaint alleging that the proposed acquisition of Midwest Wireless Holdings L.L.C. by ALLTEL Corp. would violate Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18, by substantially lessening competition in the provision of mobile wireless telecommunications services in four Minnesota markets. The proposed Final Judgment, lodged at the same time as the Complaint, requires ALLTEL to divest its mobile wireless telecommunication business assets in four markets in rural Minnesota in order to proceed with ALLTEL's acquisition of Midwest Wireless. A Competitive Impact Statement filed by the United States describes the Complaint, the proposed Final Judgment, and the remedies available to private litigants who may have been injured by the alleged violation.

Copies of the Complaint, proposed Final Judgment, Preservation of Assets Stipulation, and Competitive Impact Statement are available for inspection at the U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, 325 Seventh Street, NW., Suite 215, Washington, DC 20530 (202-514-2481), on the Internet at http://www.usdoj.gov/​atr, and at the Clerk's Office of the United States District Court for Minnesota. Copies of these materials may be obtained upon request and payment of a copying fee.

Public comment is invited within the statutory 60-day comment period. Such comments and responses thereto will be published in the Federal Register and filed with the Court. Comments should be directed to Nancy Goodman, Chief, Telecommunications & Media Enforcement Section, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 1401 H Street, NW., Suite 8000, Washington, DC 20530 (202-514-5621).

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J. Robert Kramer II,

Director of Operations Antitrust Division.

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United States of America Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, 1401 H Street, NW., Suite 8000 Washington, DC 20530, and State of Minnesota Minnesota Attorney General's Office, 445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1200, St. Paul, Minnesota 55101, Plaintiffs, v. ALLTEL Corporation, One Allied Drive, Little Rock, Arkansas 72202, and Midwest Wireless Holdings L.L.C., 2000 Technology Drive, Mankato, Minnesota 56002, Defendants

Complaint

The United States of America, acting under the direction of the Attorney General of the United States, and the State of Minnesota, by its Attorney General Mike Hatch, bring this civil action to enjoin the merger of two mobile wireless telecommunications service providers, ALLTEL Corporation (“ALLTEL”) and Midwest Wireless Holdings L.L.C. (“Midwest Wireless”), and to obtain other relief as appropriate. Plaintiffs allege as follows:

1. ALLTEL entered into an agreement to acquire Midwest Wireless, dated November 17, 2005, under which the two companies would combine their mobile wireless telecommunications services businesses (“Transaction Agreement”). Plaintiffs seek to enjoin this transaction because it will substantially lessen competition for mobile wireless telecommunications services in several geographic markets where ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless are each other's most significant competitor.

2. ALLTEL provides mobile wireless telecommunications services in 35 states serving approximately 11 million subscribers. Midwest Wireless provides mobile wireless telecommunications services in three Midwestern states serving approximately 440,000 subscribers. The combination of ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless will substantially lessen competition for mobile wireless telecommunications services in four geographic areas in southern Minnesota where currently both ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless operate. As a result of the proposed acquisition, residents of these mostly rural areas will face the likelihood of increased prices, diminished quality or quantity of services provided, and less investment in network improvements for these services.

I. Jurisdiction and Venue

3. This Complaint is filed by the United States under Section 15 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 25, to prevent and restrain defendants from violating Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18. Plaintiff Minnesota, by and through its Attorney General, brings this action in its sovereign capacity and as parens patriae on behalf of the citizens, general welfare, and economy of the State of Minnesota under Section 16 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 26, to prevent defendants from violating Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18.

4. ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless both provide mobile wireless telecommunications services in the State of Minnesota, as well as other states. The provision of mobile wireless telecommunications services is a commercial activity that substantially affects, and is in the flow of, interstate trade and commerce. The defendants purchase substantial quantities of handsets and equipment from sources Start Printed Page 55016outside of Minnesota. They also have entered into roaming and other service agreements with companies located outside of Minnesota. The Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of this action and jurisdiction over the parties pursuant to 15 U.S.C. 22, 25, and 26, and 28 U.S.C. 1331, 1337.

5. Venue in the District is proper under 15 U.S.C. 22 and 28 U.S.C. 1391(c).

II. The Defendants and the Transaction

6. ALLTEL, with headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas, is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the state of Delaware. ALLTEL is the fifth largest provider of mobile wireless voice and data services in the United States by number of subscribers; it serves approximately 11 million customers. It provides mobile wireless telecommunications services in 233 Rural Service Areas and 116 Metropolitan Statistical Areas located within 35 states and roaming services to other mobile wireless providers who use CDMA, TDMA and GSM technology in these areas. In 2005, ALLTEL earned wireless revenues of approximately $6.572 billion.

7. Midwest Wireless, with headquarters in Mankato, Minnesota, is a privately-held Delaware limited-liability company. Midwest Wireless provides wireless service in 14 Rural Service Areas and one Metropolitan Statistical Area located in Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin and has approximately 440,000 customers. In 2005, Midwest Wireless earned approximately $264 million in revenues.

8. Pursuant to the Transaction Agreement dated November 17, 2005, ALLTEL will acquire Midwest Wireless for approximately $1.075 billion in cash. If this transaction is consummated, ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless combined would have approximately 11.5 million subscribers in the United States, with $7.8 billion in revenues and operations in 35 states.

III. Trade and Commerce

A. Nature of Trade and Commerce

9. Mobile wireless telecommunications services allow customers to make and receive telephone calls and use data services using radio transmissions without being confined to a small area during the call or data session, and without the need for unobstructed line-of-sight to the radio tower. Mobility is highly prized by customers, as demonstrated by the more than 180 million people in the United States who own mobile wireless telephones. In 2005, revenues from the sale of mobile wireless services in the United States were over $113 billion. To meet this desire for mobility, mobile wireless telecommunications services providers must deploy an extensive network of switches and radio transmitters and receivers, and interconnect this network with the networks of wireline carriers and with other wireless providers.

10. The first wireless voice systems were based on analog technology, now referred to as first-generation or “1G” technology. These analog systems were launched after the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) issued the first licenses for mobile wireless telephone service: two cellular licenses (A-block and B-block) in each geographic area in the early to mid-1980s. The licenses are in the 800 MHz range of the radio spectrum, each license consists of 25 MHz of spectrum, and they are issued for each Metropolitan Statistical Area (“MSA”) and Rural Service Area (“RSA”) (collectively, “Cellular Marketing Areas” or “CMAs”), with a total of 734 CMAs covering the entire United States. In 1982, one of the licenses was issued to the incumbent local exchange carrier in the market, and the other was issued by lottery to someone other than the incumbent. In the relevant geographic markets, ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless each own one of the cellular licenses.

11. In 1995, the FCC allocated and subsequently issued licenses for additional spectrum for the provision of Personal Communications Services (“PCS”), a category of services that includes mobile wireless telecommunications services comparable to those offered by cellular licensees. These licenses are in the 1.9 GHz range of the radio spectrum and are divided into six blocks: A, B, and C, which consist of 30 MHz each; and D, E, and F, which consist of 10 MHz each. Geographically, the A and B-block 30 MHz licenses are issued by Major Trading Areas (“MTAs”), and C, D, E, and F-block licenses are issued by Basic Trading Areas (“BTAs”), several of which comprise each MTA. MTAs and BTAs do not generally correspond to MSAs and RSAs. With the introduction of the PCS licenses, both cellular and PCS licensees began offering digital services, thereby increasing capacity, shrinking handsets, and extending battery life. In 1996, one provider, a specialized mobile radio (“SMR” or “dispatch”) spectrum licensee, began to use its SMR spectrum to offer mobile wireless telecommunications services comparable to those offered by other mobile wireless telecommunications services providers, in conjunction with its dispatch, or “push-to-talk,” service. Although there are a number of providers holding spectrum licenses in each area of the country, not all providers have fully built out their networks throughout each license area. In particular, because of the characteristics of PCS spectrum, providers holding this type of spectrum have found it less attractive to build out in rural areas.

12. Today, more than 99% of the total U.S. population lives in counties where mobile wireless telecommunications services operators offer digital service, and nearly all mobile wireless voice service has migrated to second-generation or “2G” digital technologies: TDMA (time division multiple access), GSM (global standard for mobile, a type of TDMA standard used by all carriers in Europe), and CDMA (code division multiple access). Mobile wireless telecommunications services providers have chosen to build their networks on these incompatible technologies and most have chosen CDMA or GSM, with TDMA having been orphaned by equipment vendors. (The SMR providers use a fourth incompatible technological standard better suited to the spectrum they own, and, as SMR licensees, they have no obligation to support a specific technology standard.) Even more advanced technologies (“2.5G” and “3G”) have begun to be deployed for voice and data.

B. Relevant Product Market

13. Mobile wireless telecommunications services is a relevant product market. Mobile wireless telecommunications services include both voice and data services provided over a radio network and allows customers to maintain their telephone calls or data sessions without wires, such as when traveling. There are no cost-effective alternatives to mobile wireless telecommunications services. Fixed wireless services are not mobile (e.g., Wi-Fi), and therefore are not a viable alternative to mobile wireless telecommunications service. It is unlikely that a sufficient number of customers would switch away from mobile wireless telecommunications services to make a small but significant price increase in those services unprofitable. Mobile wireless telecommunications services is a relevant product market under Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18.

C. Relevant Geographic Markets

14. The large majority of customers use mobile wireless telecommunications services in close proximity to their Start Printed Page 55017workplaces and homes. Thus, customers purchasing mobile wireless telecommunications services choose among mobile wireless telecommunications services providers that offer services where they are located and travel on a regular basis: home, work, other areas they commonly visit, and areas in between. The number and identity of mobile wireless telecommunications services providers varies among geographic areas, along with the quality of their services and the breadth of their geographic coverage, all of which are significant factors in customers' purchasing decisions. Mobile wireless telecommunications services providers can and do offer different promotions, discounts, calling plans, and equipment subsidies in different geographic areas, effectively varying the price for customers by geographic area.

15. The United States comprises numerous local geographic markets for mobile wireless telecommunications services. The FCC has licensed a limited number of mobile wireless telecommunications services providers in each local area based upon the availability of radio spectrum. These FCC spectrum licensing areas often represent the core of the business and social sphere where customers face the same competitive choices for mobile wireless telecommunications services. The relevant geographic markets in which this transaction will substantially lessen competition in mobile wireless telecommunications services are effectively represented, but not defined, by FCC spectrum licensing areas.

16. The relevant geographic markets, under Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18, where the transaction will substantially lessen competition for mobile wireless telecommunications services are represented by the following FCC spectrum licensing areas which are all RSAs located in southern Minnesota: Minnesota RSA-7 (CMA 488), Minnesota RSA-8 (CMA 489), Minnesota RSA-9 (CMA 490), and Minnesota RSA-10 (CMA 491). It is unlikely that a sufficient number of customers would switch to mobile wireless telecommunications services providers in a different geographic market to make a small but significant price increase in the relevant geographic markets unprofitable for mobile wireless telecommunications services.

D. Anticompetitive Effects

1. Mobile Wireless Telecommunications Services

17. The companies' combined market shares for mobile wireless telecommunications services in the relevant markets described above, as measured in terms of subscribers, range from over 60% to nearly 95%. In each relevant geographic market, Midwest Wireless has the largest market share and, in all but one RSA, ALLTEL is the second-largest mobile wireless telecommunications services provider. In all of the relevant geographic markets, ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless own the only 800 MHz band cellular spectrum licenses, which are more efficient in serving rural areas than 1900 MHz band PCS spectrum. As a result of holding the cellular spectrum licenses and being early entrants into these markets, ALLTEL's and Midwest Wireless's networks provide greater depth and breadth of coverage than their competitors, which are operating on PCS spectrum in the relevant geographic markets, and thus are more attractive to consumers.

In addition, mobile wireless telecommunications services providers with partial coverage in a geographic area do not aggressively market their services in these markets because potential customers would use their wireless telephones primarily in areas where these providers have no network. In theory, these less-built-out providers could serve residents of the rural areas through roaming agreements but, as a practical matter, when service is provided on another carrier's network, the providers have to pay roaming charges to, and rely on, that provider to maintain the quality of the network. Because of these constraints, carriers with limited network coverage in an area are reluctant to market their services to residents of that area. Therefore, ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless are likely closer substitutes for each other than the other mobile wireless telecommunications services providers who own only PCS spectrum in the relevant geographic markets.

18. The relevant geographic markets for mobile wireless services are highly concentrated. As measured by the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (“HHI”), which is commonly employed in merger analysis and is defined and explained in Appendix A to this Complaint, concentration in these markets ranges from over 3600 to more than 5600, which is well above the 1800 threshold at which the Department considers a market to be highly concentrated. After ALLTEL's proposed acquisition of Midwest Wireless is consummated, the HHIs in the relevant geographic markets will range from over 4700 to over 9100, with increases in the HHI as a result of the merger ranging from over 1000 to over 4100, significantly beyond the thresholds at which the Department considers a transaction likely to cause competitive harm.

19. Competition between ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless in the relevant geographic markets has resulted in lower prices and higher quality in mobile wireless telecommunications services, than would otherwise have existed in these geographic markets. In these areas, consumers consider ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless to be the most attractive competitors because other providers' networks lack coverage or provide lower-quality service. If ALLTEL's proposed acquisition of Midwest Wireless is consummated, the relevant geographic markets for mobile wireless telecommunications services will become substantially more concentrated, and the competition between ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless in mobile wireless telecommunications services will be eliminated in these markets. As a result, the loss of competition between ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless increases the likelihood of unilateral actions by the merged firm in the relevant geographic markets to increase prices, diminish the quality or quantity of services provided, and refrain from or delay making investments in network improvements. Therefore, ALLTEL's proposed acquisition of Midwest Wireless will likely result in substantially less competition in mobile wireless telecommunications services in the relevant geographic markets.

2. Entry

20. Entry by a new mobile wireless telecommunications services provider in the relevant geographic markets would be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive, requiring the acquisition of spectrum licenses and the build-out of a network. Expansion by providers who hold spectrum in these areas is also unlikely as the relevant geographic markets are rural service areas where the combined firm would own all of the available 800 MHz cellular spectrum. Due to propagation characteristics of 800 MHz cellular spectrum and 1900 MHz PCS spectrum, the 800 MHz signals can cover a substantially broader area than the 1900 MHz signals. The estimated coverage advantage of the 800 MHz cellular spectrum in rural areas ranges from two to as much as five times greater than PCS. In rural markets, this difference results in higher build-out costs for PCS networks than for cellular networks. The high costs of constructing PCS networks in rural markets combined with the relatively low population density makes it less likely that carriers that own PCS spectrum Start Printed Page 55018would build out in the relevant geographic markets. Therefore, new entry in response to a small but significant price increase for mobile wireless services by the merged firm in the relevant geographic markets would not be timely, likely, or sufficient to thwart the competitive harm resulting from ALLTEL's proposed acquisition of Midwest Wireless, if it were to be consummated.

IV. Violation Alleged

21. The effect of ALLTEL's proposed acquisition of Midwest Wireless, if it were to be consummated, may be substantially to lessen competition in interstate trade and commerce in the relevant geographic markets for mobile wireless telecommunications services, in violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18.

22. Unless restrained, the transaction will likely have the following effects in mobile wireless telecommunications services in the relevant geographic markets, among others:

a. Actual and potential competition between ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless will be eliminated;

b. Competition in general will be lessened substantially;

c. Prices are likely to increase;

d. The quality and quantity of services are likely to decrease; and

e. Incentives to improve wireless networks will be reduced.

V. Requested Relief

The plaintiffs request:

23. That ALLTEL's proposed acquisition of Midwest Wireless be adjudged to violate Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18;

24. That defendants be permanently enjoined from and restrained from carrying out the Transaction Agreement, dated November 17, 2005, or from entering into or carrying out any agreement, understanding, or plan, the effect of which would be to bring the wireless services businesses of ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless under common ownership or control;

25. That plaintiffs be awarded their costs of this action; and

26. That plaintiffs have such other relief as the Court may deem just and proper.

Dated:

  Respectfully Submitted,

For Plaintiff United States of America

Thomas O. Barnett,

Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division.

J. Bruce McDonald,

Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division.

J. Robert Kramer II,

Director of Operations, Antitrust Division.

Nancy Goodman,

Chief, Telecommunications & Media, Enforcement Section, Antitrust Division.

Laury Bobbish,

Assistant Chief, Telecommunications & Media Enforcement Section, Antitrust Division.

Hillary B. Burchuk, Lawrence M. Frankel.

Attorneys, Telecommunications & Media, Enforcement Section, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, City Center Building, 1401 H Street, NW., Suite 8000, Washington, DC 20530, (202) 514-5621, Facsimile: (202) 514-6381.

Rachel K. Paulose,

United States Attorney.

Perry F. Sekus,

Assistant United States Attorney, Attorney I.D. No. 0309412, 600 United States Courthouse, 300 South Fourth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55415, (612) 664-5600, Facsimile: (612) 664-5788.

For Plaintiff State of Minnesota

Mike Hatch,

Attorney General, State of Minnesota.

Kristen M. Olsen,

Assistant Attorney General, Atty. Reg. No. 030489X, 445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1200, St. Paul, Minnesota 55101-2130, (651) 296-2921, Facsimile: (651) 282-5437.

Appendix A—Herfindahl-Hirschman Index

“HHI” means the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index, a commonly accepted measure of market concentration. It is calculated by squaring the market share of each firm competing in the market and then summing the resulting numbers. For example, for a market consisting of four finns with shares of 30, 30, 20, and 20 percent, the HHI is 2600 (302 + 302 + 202 + 202 = 2600). (Note: Throughout the Complaint, market share percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number, but HHIs have been estimated using unrounded percentages in order to accurately reflect the concentration of the various markets.) The HHI takes into account the relative size distribution of the firms in a market and approaches zero when a market consists of a large number of small firms. The HHI increases both as the number of firms in the market decreases and as the disparity in size between those firms increases.

Markets in which the HHI is between 1000 and 1800 points are considered to be moderately concentrated, and those in which the HHI is in excess of 1800 points are considered to be highly concentrated. See Horizontal Merger Guidelines ¶1.51 (revised Apr. 8, 1997). Transactions that increase the HHI by more than 100 points in concentrated markets presumptively raise antitrust concerns under the guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission. See id.

In the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota

United States of America and State of Minnesota Plaintiffs, v. ALLTEL Corporation and Midwest Wireless Holdings L.L.C., Defendants

Final Judgment

Whereas, plaintiffs, United States of America and the State of Minnesota, filed their Complaint on September 7, 2006, plaintiffs and defendants, ALLTEL Corporation (”ALLTEL”) and Midwest Wireless Holdings L.L.C. (“Midwest Wireless”), by their respective attorneys, have consented to the entry of this Final Judgment without trial or adjudication of any issue of fact or law, and without this Final Judgment constituting any evidence against or admission by any party regarding any issue of fact or law;

And Whereas, defendants agree to be bound by the provisions of this Final Judgment pending its approval by the Court;

And Whereas, the essence of this Final Judgment is the prompt and certain divestiture of certain rights or assets by defendants to assure that competition is not substantially lessened;

And Whereas, plaintiffs require defendants to make certain divestitures for the purpose of remedying the loss of competition alleged in the Complaint;

And Whereas, defendants have represented to plaintiffs that the divestitures required below can and will be made and that defendants will later raise no claim of hardship or difficulty as grounds for asking the Court to modify any of the divestiture provisions contained below;

Now Therefore, before any testimony is taken, without trial or adjudication of any issue of fact or law, and upon consent of the parties, it is Ordered, Adjudged and Decreed:

I. Jurisdiction

This Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of and each of the parties to this action. The Complaint states a claim upon which relief may be granted against defendants under Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18.

II. Definitions

As used in this Final Judgment:

A. “Acquirer” means the entity to whom defendants divest the Divestiture Assets.

B. “ALLTEL” means defendant ALLTEL Corporation, a Delaware Start Printed Page 55019corporation with headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas, its successors and assigns, and its subsidiaries, divisions, groups, affiliates, partnerships and joint ventures, and their directors, officers, managers, agents, and employees.

C. “CMA” means cellular market area which is used by the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) to define cellular license areas and which consists of Metropolitan Statistical Areas (“MSAs”) and Rural Service Areas (“RSAs”).

D. “Divestiture Assets” means each mobile wireless telecommunications services business to be divested under this Final Judgment, including all types of assets, tangible and intangible, used by defendants in the operation of the mobile wireless telecommunications services businesses to be divested. “Divestiture Assets” shall be construed broadly to accomplish the complete divestiture of the entire business of ALLTEL in each of the following RSA license areas as required by this Final Judgment and to ensure that the divested mobile wireless telecommunications services businesses remain viable, ongoing businesses:

(1) Minnesota RSA-7 (CMA 488);

(2) Minnesota RSA-8 (CMA 489);

(3) Minnesota RSA-9 (CMA 490); and

(4) Minnesota RSA-10 (CMA 491)

provided that ALL TEL may retain all of the PCS spectrum it currently holds in each of these RSAs and equipment that is used only for wireless transmissions over this PCS spectrum, and provided that ALL TEL need not divest the assets used solely to operate ALLTEL's GSM roaming business in these RSAs, including GSM roaming contracts and equipment.

The Divestiture Assets shall include, without limitation, all types of real and personal property, monies and financial instruments, equipment, inventory, office furniture, fixed assets and furnishings, supplies and materials, contracts, agreements, leases, commitments, spectrum licenses issued by the FCC and all other licenses, permits and authorizations, operational support systems, cell sites, network infrastructure, switches, customer support and billing systems, interfaces with other service providers, business and customer records and information, customer contracts, customer lists, credit records, accounts, and historic and current business plans which relate primarily to the wireless businesses being divested, as well as any patents, licenses, sub-licenses, trade secrets, know-how, drawings, blueprints, designs, technical and quality specifications and protocols, quality assurance and control procedures, manuals and other technical information defendant ALLTEL supplies to its own employees, customers, suppliers, agents, or licensees, and trademarks, trade names and service marks or other intellectual property, including all intellectual property rights under third-party licenses that are capable of being transferred to an Acquirer either in their entirety, for assets described in (1) below, or through a license obtained through or from ALLTEL, for assets described in (2) below; provided that defendants shall only be required to divest Multi-line Business Customer contracts, if the primary business address for that customer is located within any of the four license areas described herein, and further, any subscriber who obtains mobile wireless telecommunications services through any such contract retained by defendants and who are located within the four geographic areas identified above, shall be given the option to terminate their relationship with defendants, without financial cost, at any time within one year of the closing of the Transaction. Defendants shall provide written notice to these subscribers within 45 days after the closing of the Transaction of the option to terminate.

The divestiture of the Divestiture Assets shall be accomplished by:

(1) Transferring to the Acquirer the complete ownership and/or other rights to the assets (other than those assets used substantially in the operations of ALL TEL's overall wireless telecommunications services business which must be retained to continue the existing operations of the wireless properties that defendants are not required to divest, and that either are not capable of being divided between the divested wireless telecommunications services businesses and those not divested, or are assets that the defendants and the Acquirer agree, subject to approval of plaintiff United States upon consultation with plaintiff Minnesota, shall not be divided); and

(2) Granting to the Acquirer an option to obtain a nonexclusive, transferable license from defendants for a reasonable period, subject to approval of plaintiff United States upon consultation with plaintiff Minnesota, at the election of an Acquirer to use any of ALLTEL's retained assets under paragraph (1) above, used in the operation of the mobile wireless telecommunications services businesses being divested, so as to enable the Acquirer to continue to operate the divested mobile wireless telecommunications services businesses without impairment. Defendants shall identify in a schedule submitted to plaintiffs and filed with the Court, as expeditiously as possible following the filing of the Complaint and in any event prior to any divestiture and before the approval by the Court of this Final Judgment, any intellectual property rights under third-party licenses that are used by the mobile wireless telecommunications services businesses being divested but that defendants could not transfer to an Acquirer entirely or by license without third-party consent, and the specific reasons why such consent is necessary and how such consent would be obtained for each asset.

E. “GSM” means global system for mobile communications which is one of the standards used for the infrastructure of digital cellular service.

F. “Midwest Wireless” means defendant Midwest Wireless Holdings L.L.C., a Delaware Limited Liability Company, with headquarters in Mankato, Minnesota, its successors and assigns, and its subsidiaries, divisions, groups, affiliates, partnerships and joint ventures, and their directors, officers, managers, agents, and employees.

G. “Multi-line Business Customer” means a corporate or business customer that contracts with ALLTEL for mobile wireless services to provide multiple telephones to its employees or members whose services are provided pursuant to a contract with the corporate or business customer.

H. “Transaction” means the Transaction Agreement between ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless, dated November 17, 2005.

III. Applicability

A. This Final Judgment applies to defendants ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless, as defined above, and all other persons in active concert or participation with any of them who receive actual notice of this Final Judgment by personal service or otherwise.

B. Defendants shall require, as a condition of the sale or other disposition of all or substantially all of their assets or of lesser business units that include the Divestiture Assets, that the purchaser agrees to be bound by the provisions of this Final Judgment, provided that defendants need not obtain such an agreement from the Acquirer.

IV. Divestitures

A. Defendants are ordered and directed, within 120 days after consummation of the Transaction, or five days after notice of entry of this Final Judgment, whichever is later, to Start Printed Page 55020divest the Divestiture Assets to an Acquirer acceptable to plaintiff United States in its sole discretion upon consultation with plaintiff Minnesota, or, if applicable, to a Divestiture Trustee designated pursuant to Section V of this Final Judgment. Plaintiff United States, in its sole discretion upon consultation with plaintiff Minnesota, may agree to one or more extensions of this time period not to exceed 60 days in total, and shall notify the Court in such circumstances. With respect to divestiture of the Divestiture Assets by defendants or the Divestiture Trustee, if applications have been filed with the FCC within the period permitted for divestiture seeking approval to assign or transfer licenses to the Acquirer of the Divestiture Assets, but an order or other dispositive action by the FCC on such applications has not been issued before the end of the period permitted for divestiture, the period shall be extended with respect to divestiture of those Divestiture Assets for which FCC approval has not been issued until five days after such approval is received. Defendants agree to use their best efforts to accomplish the divestitures set forth in this Final Judgment and to seek all necessary regulatory approvals as expeditiously as possible. This Final Judgment does not limit the FCC's exercise of its regulatory powers and process with respect to the Divestiture Assets. Authorization by the FCC to conduct the divestiture of a Divestiture Asset in a particular manner will not modify any of the requirements of this decree.

B. In accomplishing the divestitures ordered by this Final Judgment, defendants shall promptly make known, if they have not already done so, by usual and customary means, the availability of the Divestiture Assets. Defendants shall inform any person making inquiry regarding a possible purchase of the Divestiture Assets that they are being divested pursuant to this Final Judgment and provide that person with a copy of this Final Judgment. Defendants shall offer to furnish to all prospective Acquirers, subject to customary confidentiality assurances, all information and documents relating to the Divestiture Assets customarily provided in a due diligence process except such information or documents subject to the attorney-client or work product privileges. Defendants shall make available such information to plaintiffs at the same time that such information is made available to any other person.

C. Defendants shall provide to the Acquirer and plaintiffs information relating to the personnel involved in the operation, development, and sale of mobile wireless telecommunications services in the relevant RSAs to enable the Acquirer to make offers of employment. Defendants will not interfere with any negotiations by the Acquirer to employ any defendant employee whose primary responsibility is the operation, development, or sale of mobile wireless services in the relevant RSAs.

D. Defendants shall permit prospective Acquirers of the Divestiture Assets to have reasonable access to personnel and to make inspections of the Divestiture Assets; access to any and all environmental, zoning, and other permit documents and information; and access to any and all financial, operational, and other documents and information customarily provided as part of a due diligence process.

E. Defendants shall warrant to the Acquirer that (1) The Divestiture Assets will be operational on the date of sale, and (2) every wireless spectrum license is in full force and effect on the date of sale.

F. Defendants shall not take any action that will impede in any way the permitting, licensing, operation, or divestiture of the Divestiture Assets.

G. Defendants shall warrant to the Acquirer of the Divestiture Assets that there are no defects in the environmental, zoning, licensing or other permits pertaining to the operation of each asset that will have a material adverse effect on the operator of the mobile wireless telecommunications services business in which the asset is primarily used, and that following the sale of the Divested Assets, defendants will not undertake, directly or indirectly, any challenges to the environmental, zoning, licensing or other permits relating to the operation of the Divestiture Assets.

H. Unless plaintiff United States upon consultation with plaintiff Minnesota otherwise consents in writing, the divestitures pursuant to Section IV, or by a Divestiture Trustee appointed pursuant to Section V of this Final Judgment, shall include the entire Divestiture Assets, and shall be accomplished in such a way as to satisfy plaintiff United States in its sole discretion upon consultation with plaintiff Minnesota that these assets can and will be used by the Acquirer as part of a viable, ongoing business engaged in the provision of mobile wireless telecommunications services. The Divestiture Assets shall all be divested to a single Acquirer. The divestiture of the Divestiture Assets, whether pursuant to Section IV or Section V of this Final Judgment,

(1) Shall be made to an Acquirer that, in plaintiff United States's sole judgment upon consultation with plaintiff Minnesota, has the intent and capability (including the necessary managerial, operational, technical, and financial capability) of competing effectively in the provision of mobile wireless telecommunications services; and

(2) Shall be accomplished so as to satisfy plaintiff United States in its sole discretion upon consultation with plaintiff Minnesota, that none of the terms of any agreement between the Acquirer and any defendant shall give defendants the ability unreasonably to raise the Acquirer's costs, to lower the Acquirer's efficiency, or otherwise to interfere with the ability of the Acquirer to compete effectively.

I. At the option of the Acquirer of the Divestiture Assets, defendants shall enter into a contract for transition services customarily provided in connection with the sale of a business providing mobile wireless telecommunications services sufficient to meet all or part of the needs of the Acquirer for a period of up to one year. The terms and conditions of any contractual arrangement meant to satisfy this provision must be reasonably related to market conditions.

J. To the extent that the Divestiture Assets use intellectual property, as required to be identified by Section II.D, that cannot be transferred or assigned without the consent of the licensor or other third parties, defendants shall use their best efforts to obtain those consents.

V. Appointment of Divestiture Trustee

A. If defendants have not divested the Divestiture Assets within the time period specified in Section IV.A, defendants shall notify plaintiffs of that fact in writing, specifically identifying the Divestiture Assets that have not been divested. Then, upon application of plaintiff United States upon consultation with plaintiff Minnesota, the Court shall appoint a Divestiture Trustee selected by plaintiff United States and approved by the Court to effect the divestiture of the Divestiture Assets. The Divestiture Trustee will have all the rights and responsibilities of the Management Trustee appointed pursuant to the Preservation of Assets Order, and will be responsible for:

(1) Accomplishing divestiture of all Divestiture Assets transferred to the Divestiture Trustee from defendants, in accordance with the terms of this Final Judgment, to an Acquirer approved by plaintiff United States upon consultation with plaintiff Minnesota, Start Printed Page 55021under Section IV.A of this Final Judgment; and

(2) exercising the responsibilities of the licensee of any transferred Divestiture Assets and controlling and operating any transferred Divestiture Assets, to ensure that the businesses remain ongoing, economically viable competitors in the provision of mobile wireless telecommunications services in the four license areas specified in Section II.D, until they are divested to an Acquirer, and the Divestiture Trustee shall agree to be bound by this Final Judgment.

B. Defendants shall submit a proposed trust agreement (“Trust Agreement”) to plaintiffs, which must be consistent with the terms of this Final Judgment and which must receive approval by plaintiff United States in its sole discretion upon consultation with plaintiff Minnesota, who shall communicate to defendants within 10 business days its approval or disapproval of the proposed Trust Agreement, and which must be executed by the defendants and the Divestiture Trustee within five business days after approval by plaintiff United States.

C. After obtaining any necessary approvals from the FCC for the assignment of the licenses of the Divestiture Assets to the Divestiture Trustee, defendants shall irrevocably divest the Divestiture Assets to the Divestiture Trustee, who will own such assets (or own the stock of the entity owning such assets, if divestiture is to be effected by the creation of such an entity for sale to Acquirer) and control such assets, subject to the terms of the approved Trust Agreement.

D. After the appointment of a Divestiture Trustee becomes effective, only the Divestiture Trustee shall have the right to sell the Divestiture Assets. The Divestiture Trustee shall have the power and authority to accomplish the divestiture to an Acquirer acceptable to plaintiff United States, in its sole judgment upon consultation with plaintiff Minnesota, at such price and on such terms as are then obtainable upon reasonable effort by the Divestiture Trustee, subject to the provisions of Sections IV, V, and VI of this Final Judgment, and shall have such other powers as this Court deems appropriate. Subject to Section V.G of this Final Judgment, the Divestiture Trustee may hire at the cost and expense of defendants the Management Trustee appointed pursuant to the Preservation of Assets Order, and any investment bankers, attorneys or other agents, who shall be solely accountable to the Divestiture Trustee, reasonably necessary in the Divestiture Trustee's judgment to assist in the divestiture.

E. In addition, notwithstanding any provision to the contrary, plaintiff United States, in its sole discretion upon consultation with plaintiff Minnesota, may require defendants to include additional assets, or allow, with the written approval of plaintiff United States upon consultation with plaintiff Minnesota, defendants to substitute substantially similar assets, which substantially relate to the Divestiture Assets to be divested by the Divestiture Trustee to facilitate prompt divestiture to an acceptable Acquirer.

F. Defendants shall not object to a sale by the Divestiture Trustee on any ground other than the Divestiture Trustee's malfeasance. Any such objections by defendants must be conveyed in writing to plaintiffs and the Divestiture Trustee within 10 calendar days after the Divestiture Trustee has provided the notice required under Section VI.

G. The Divestiture Trustee shall serve at the cost and expense of defendants, on such terms and conditions as plaintiff United States approves, and shall account for all monies derived from the sale of the assets sold and all costs and expenses so incurred. After approval by the Court of the Divestiture Trustee's accounting, including fees for its services and those of any professionals and agents retained by the Divestiture Trustee, all remaining money shall be paid to defendants and the trust shall then be terminated. The compensation of the Divestiture Trustee and any professionals and agents retained by the Divestiture Trustee shall be reasonable in light of the value of the Divestiture Assets and based on a fee arrangement providing the Divestiture Trustee with an incentive based on the price and terms of the divestiture, and the speed with which it is accomplished, but timeliness is paramount.

H. Defendants shall use their best efforts to assist the Divestiture Trustee in accomplishing the required divestitures including their best efforts to effect all necessary regulatory approvals and will provide any necessary representations or warranties as appropriate related to sale of the Divestiture Assets. The Divestiture Trustee and any consultants, accountants, attorneys, and other persons retained by the Divestiture Trustee shall have full and complete access to the personnel, books, records, and facilities of the businesses to be divested, and defendants shall develop financial and other information relevant to the assets to be divested as the Divestiture Trustee may reasonably request, subject to reasonable protection for trade secret or other confidential research, development, or commercial information. Defendants shall take no action to interfere with or to impede the Divestiture Trustee's accomplishment of the divestitures.

I. After its appointment, the Divestiture Trustee shall file monthly reports with plaintiffs and the Court setting forth the Divestiture Trustee's efforts to accomplish the divestitures ordered under this Final Judgment. To the extent such reports contain information that the Divestiture Trustee deems confidential, such reports shall not be filed in the public docket of the Court. If the Divestiture Trustee designates any information as “confidential” in any report or notice he submits pursuant to this Final Judgment, within five business days after the submission of such report, any plaintiff that objects to the designation of information as “confidential” will notify the Divestiture Trustee. Such reports shall include the name, address, and telephone number of each person who, during the preceding month, made an offer to acquire, expressed an interest in acquiring, entered into negotiations to acquire, or was contacted or made an inquiry about acquiring, any interest in the Divestiture Assets, and shall describe in detail each contact with any such person. The Divestiture Trustee shall maintain full records of all efforts made to divest the Divestiture Assets.

J. If the Divestiture Trustee has not accomplished such divestitures within six months after its appointment, the Divestiture Trustee shall promptly file with the Court a report setting forth (1) The Divestiture Trustee's efforts to accomplish the required divestitures, (2) the reasons, in the Divestiture Trustee's judgment, why the required divestitures have not been accomplished, and (3) the Divestiture Trustee's recommendations. To the extent such reports contain information that the Divestiture Trustee deems confidential, such reports shall not be filed in the public docket of the Court. The Divestiture Trustee shall at the same time furnish such report to the plaintiffs, who shall have the right to make additional recommendations consistent with the purpose of the trust. The Court thereafter shall enter such orders as it shall deem appropriate to carry out the purpose of the Final Judgment, which may, if necessary, include extending the trust and the term of the Divestiture Trustee's appointment by a period requested by plaintiff United States upon consultation with plaintiff Minnesota. Start Printed Page 55022

K. After defendants transfer the Divestiture Assets to the Divestiture Trustee, and until those Divestiture Assets have been divested to an Acquirer approved by plaintiff United States pursuant to Sections IV.A and IV.R, the Divestiture Trustee shall have sole and complete authority to manage and operate the Divestiture Assets and to exercise the responsibilities of the licensee, and shall not be subject to any control or direction by defendants. Defendants shall not use or retain any economic interest in the Divestiture Assets transferred to the Divestiture Trustee, apart from the right to receive the proceeds of the sale or other disposition of the Divestiture Assets.

L. The Divestiture Trustee shall operate the Divestiture Assets consistent with the Preservation of Assets Order and this Final Judgment, with control over operations, marketing, and sales. Defendants shall not attempt to influence the business decisions of the Divestiture Trustee concerning the operation and management of the Divestiture Assets, and shall not communicate with the Divestiture Trustee concerning divestiture of the Divestiture Assets or take any action to influence, interfere with, or impede the Divestiture Trustee's accomplishment of the divestitures required by this Final Judgment, except that defendants may communicate with the Divestiture Trustee to the extent necessary for defendants to comply with this Final Judgment and to provide the Divestiture Trustee, if requested to do so, with whatever resources or cooperation may be required to complete divestiture of the Divestiture Assets and to carry out the requirements of the Preservation of Assets Order and this Final Judgment. Except as provided in this Final Judgment and the Preservation of Assets Order, in no event shall defendants provide to, or receive from, the Divestiture Trustee or the mobile wireless telecommunications services businesses to be divested any non-public or competitively sensitive marketing, sales, pricing or other information relating to their respective mobile wireless telecommunications services businesses.

VI. Notice of Proposed Divestitures

A. Within two business days following execution of a definitive divestiture agreement, defendants or the Divestiture Trustee, whichever is then responsible for effecting the divestitures required herein, shall notify plaintiffs in writing of any proposed divestiture required by Section IV or V of this Final Judgment. If the Divestiture Trustee is responsible, it shall similarly notify defendants. The notice shall set forth the details of the proposed divestiture and list the name, address, and telephone number of each person not previously identified who offered or expressed an interest in or desire to acquire any ownership interest in the Divestiture Assets, together with full details of the same.

B. Within 15 calendar days of receipt by plaintiffs of such notice, plaintiffs may request from defendants, the proposed Acquirer, any other third party, or the Divestiture Trustee if applicable additional information concerning the proposed divestiture, the proposed Acquirer, and any other potential Acquirer. Defendants and the Divestiture Trustee shall furnish any additional information requested within 15 calendar days of the receipt of the request, unless the parties shall otherwise agree.

C. Within 30 calendar days after receipt of the notice or within 20 calendar days after plaintiffs have been provided the additional information requested from defendants, the proposed Acquirer, any third party, and the Divestiture Trustee, whichever is later, plaintiff United States upon consultation with plaintiff Minnesota, shall provide written notice to defendants and the Divestiture Trustee, if there is one, stating whether it objects to the proposed divestiture. If plaintiff United States provides written notice that it does not object, the divestiture may be consummated, subject only to defendants' limited right to object to the sale under Section V.F of this Final Judgment. Absent written notice that plaintiff United States does not object to the proposed Acquirer or upon objection by plaintiff United States, a divestiture proposed under Section IV or Section V shall not be consummated. Upon objection by defendants under Section V.F, a divestiture proposed under Section V shall not be consummated unless approved by the Court.

VII. Financing

Defendants shall not finance all or any part of any divestiture made pursuant to Section IV or V of this Final Judgment.

VIII. Preservation of Assets

Until the divestitures required by this Final Judgment have been accomplished, defendants shall take all steps necessary to comply with the Preservation of Assets Order entered by this Court and cease use of the Divestiture Assets during the period that the Divestiture Assets are managed by the Management Trustee, except to the extent use of such assets is permitted under Section XI. Defendants shall take no action that would jeopardize the divestitures ordered by this Court.

IX. Affidavits

A. Within 20 calendar days of the filing of the Complaint in this matter, and every 30 calendar days thereafter until the divestitures have been completed under Section IV or V of this Final Judgment, defendants shall deliver to plaintiffs an affidavit as to the fact and manner of its compliance with Section IV or V of this Final Judgment. Each such affidavit shall include the name, address, and telephone number of each person who during the preceding 30 days, made an offer to acquire, expressed an interest in acquiring, entered into negotiations to acquire, or was contacted or made an inquiry about acquiring, any interest in the Divestiture Assets, and shall describe in detail each contact with any such person during that period. Each such affidavit shall also include a description of the efforts defendants have taken to solicit buyers for the Divestiture Assets, and to provide required information to prospective Acquirers, including the limitations, if any, on such information. Assuming the information set forth in the affidavit is true and complete, any objection by plaintiff United States upon consultation with plaintiff Minnesota, to information provided by defendants, including limitation on information, shall be made within 14 calendar days of receipt of such affidavit.

B. Within 20 calendar days of the filing of the Complaint in this matter, defendants shall deliver to plaintiffs an affidavit that describes in reasonable detail all actions defendants have taken and all steps defendants have implemented on an ongoing basis to comply with Section VIII of this Final Judgment. Defendants shall deliver to plaintiffs an affidavit describing any changes to the efforts and actions outlined in defendants' earlier affidavits provided pursuant to this section within 15 calendar days after the change is implemented.

C. Defendants shall keep all records of all efforts made to preserve and divest the Divestiture Assets until one year after such divestitures have been completed.

X. Compliance Inspection

A. For the purposes of determining or securing compliance with this Final Judgment, or of determining whether the Final Judgment should be modified or vacated, and subject to any legally recognized privilege, from time to time Start Printed Page 55023duly authorized representatives of the United States Department of Justice, including consultants and other persons retained by the United States, shall, upon written request of a duly authorized representative of the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division, and on reasonable notice to defendants, be permitted:

(1) Access during defendants' office hours to inspect and copy, or at plaintiff United States' option, to require defendants provide copies of, all books, ledgers, accounts, records and documents in the possession, custody, or control of defendants, relating to any matters contained in this Final Judgment; and

(2) To interview, either informally or on the record, defendants' officers, employees, or agents, who may have their individual counsel present, regarding such matters. The interviews shall be subject to the reasonable convenience of the interviewee and without restraint or interference by defendants.

B. Upon the written request of a duly authorized representative of the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division, defendants shall submit written reports, under oath if requested, relating to any of the matters contained in this Final Judgment as may be requested.

C. No information or documents obtained by the means provided in this section shall be divulged by plaintiff United States to any person other than an authorized representative of the executive branch of the United States or, pursuant to a customary protective order or waiver of confidentiality by defendants, the FCC, except in the course of legal proceedings to which the United States is a party (including grand jury proceedings), or for the purpose of securing compliance with this Final Judgment, or as otherwise required by law.

D. If at the time information or documents are furnished by defendants to plaintiff United States, defendants represent and identify in writing the material in any such information or documents to which a claim of protection may be asserted under Rule 26(c)(7) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and defendants mark each pertinent page of such material, “Subject to claim of protection under Rule 26(c)(7) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,” then plaintiff United States shall give defendants 10 calendar days notice prior to divulging such material in any legal proceeding (other than a grand jury proceeding).

XI. No Reacquisition

Defendants may not reacquire or lease any part of the Divestiture Assets during the term of this Final Judgment provided however that defendants shall not be precluded from entering commercially reasonable agreements, for a period not to exceed two years from the date of the closing of the Transaction, with the Acquirer to obtain the right to use equipment that defendant ALLTEL used to support both its GSM roaming business and the provision of wireless services using other technological formats, and provided however that defendants may lease, for a period not to exceed 30 days, from the Management Trustee appointed by this Court pursuant to the Preservation of Assets Order, 2.5 MHz of spectrum in each RSA included in the Divestiture Assets.

XII. Retention of Jurisdiction

This Court retains jurisdiction to enable any party to this Final Judgment to apply to this Court at any time for further orders and directions as may be necessary or appropriate to carry out or construe this Final Judgment, to modify any of its provisions, to enforce compliance, and to punish violations of its provisions.

XIII. Expiration of Final Judgment

Unless this Court grants an extension, this Final Judgment shall expire 10 years from the date of its entry.

XIV. Public Interest Determination

Entry of this Final Judgment is in the public interest.

Dated:

United States District Judge

Competitive Impact Statement

Plaintiff United States of America (“United States”), pursuant to Section 2(b) of the Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act (“APPA” or “Tunney Act”), 15 U.S.C. 16(b)-(h), files this Competitive Impact Statement relating to the proposed Final Judgment submitted for entry in this civil antitrust proceeding.

I. Nature and Purpose of the Proceeding

Defendants entered into a Transaction Agreement dated November 17, 2005, pursuant to which ALLTEL Corporation (“ALLTEL”) will acquire Midwest Wireless Holdings L.L.C. (“Midwest Wireless”). Plaintiffs filed a civil antitrust Complaint on September 7, 2006 seeking to enjoin the proposed acquisition. The Complaint alleges that the likely effect of this acquisition would be to lessen competition substantially for mobile wireless telecommunications services in four geographic areas in the state of Minnesota in violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18. This loss of competition would result in consumers facing higher prices and lower quality or quantity of mobile wireless telecommunications services.

At the same time the Complaint was filed, the parties moved this Court to enter a Preservation of Assets Order and plaintiff United States lodged a proposed Final Judgment, which are designed to eliminate the anticompetitive effects of the acquisition. Under the proposed Final Judgment, which is explained more fully below, defendants are required to divest ALLTEL's mobile wireless telecommunications services businesses and related assets in four markets (“Divestiture Assets”). Under the terms of the Preservation of Assets Order, defendants will take certain steps to ensure that: (a) These assets are preserved and that the Divestiture Assets are operated as competitively independent, economically viable and ongoing businesses; (b) they will remain independent and uninfluenced by defendants or the consummation of the transaction; and (c) competition is maintained during the pendency of the ordered divestiture.

Plaintiffs and defendants have stipulated that the proposed Final Judgment may be entered after compliance with the APPA. Entry of the proposed Final Judgment would terminate this action, except that the Court would retain jurisdiction to construe, modify, or enforce the provisions of the proposed Final Judgment and to punish violations thereof. Defendants have also stipulated that they will comply with the terms of the Preservation of Assets Order and the proposed Final Judgment from the date of signing of the Preservation of Assets Stipulation, pending entry of the proposed Final Judgment by the Court and the required divestiture. Should the Court decline to enter the proposed Final Judgment, defendants have also committed to continue to abide by its requirements and those of the Preservation of Assets Order until the expiration of time for appeal.

II. Description of the Events Giving Rise to the Alleged Violation

A. The Defendants and the Proposed Transaction

ALLTEL, with headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas, is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of Start Printed Page 55024the state of Delaware. ALLTEL is the fifth largest provider of mobile wireless voice and data services in the United States by number of subscribers; it serves approximately 11 million customers. It provides mobile wireless telecommunications services in 233 rural service areas and 116 metropolitan statistical areas located within 35 states and roaming services to other mobile wireless providers who use CDMA, TDMA and GSM technology in these areas. In 2005, ALLTEL earned wireless revenues of approximately $6.572 billion.

Midwest Wireless, with headquarters in Mankato, Minnesota, is a privately held Delaware limited liability company. Midwest Wireless provides wireless service in 14 rural service areas and one metropolitan statistical area located in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin and has approximately 440,000 customers. In 2004, Midwest Wireless earned approximately $264 million in revenues.

Pursuant to a Transaction Agreement dated November 17, 2005, ALLTEL will acquire Midwest Wireless for $1.075 billion in cash. If this transaction is consummated, ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless combined would have approximately 11.5 million subscribers, with $7.8 billion in revenues and operations in 35 states.

The proposed transaction, as initially agreed to by defendants, would lessen competition substantially for mobile wireless telecommunications services in four markets. This acquisition is the subject of the Complaint and proposed Final Judgment filed by plaintiffs.

B. Mobile Wireless Telecommunications Services Industry

Mobile wireless telecommunications services allow customers to make and receive telephone calls and use data services using radio transmissions without being confined to a small area during the call or data session, and without the need for unobstructed line-of-sight to the radio tower. This mobility is highly prized by customers, as demonstrated by the more than 180 million people in the United States who own mobile wireless telephones. In 2005, revenues for the sale of mobile wireless telecommunications services in the United States were over $113 billion. To provide these services, mobile wireless telecommunications services providers must acquire adequate and appropriate spectrum, deploy an extensive network of switches, radio transmitters, and receivers, and interconnect this network with those of local and long-distance wireline telecommunications providers and other mobile wireless telecommunications services providers.

The first wireless voice systems were based on analog technology, now referred to as first-generation or “IG” technology. These analog systems were launched after the FCC issued the first licenses for mobile wireless telephone service: two cellular licenses (A-block and B-block) in each geographic area in the early to mid-1980s. The licenses are in the 800 MHz range of the radio spectrum, each license consists of 25 MHz of spectrum, and they are issued for each Metropolitan Statistical Area (“MSA”) and Rural Service Area (“RSA”) (collectively, “Cellular Marketing Areas” or “CMAs”), with a total of 734 CMAs covering the entire United States. In 1982, one of the licenses was issued to the incumbent local exchange carrier in the market, and the other was issued by lottery to someone other than the incumbent.

In 1995, the FCC allocated and subsequently issued licenses for additional spectrum for the provision of Personal Communications Services (“PCS”), a category of services that includes mobile wireless telecommunications services comparable to those offered by cellular licensees. These licenses are in the 1.9 GHz range of the radio spectrum and are divided into six blocks: A, B, and C, which consist of 30 MHz each; and D, E, and F, which consist of 10 MHz each. Geographically, the A and B-block 30 MHz licenses are issued by Major Trading Areas (“MTAs”), and C, D, E, and F-block licenses are issued by Basic Trading Areas (“BTAs”), several of which comprise each MTA. MTAs and BTAs do not generally correspond to MSAs and RSAs. With the introduction of the PCS licenses, both cellular and PCS licensees began offering digital services, thereby increasing capacity, shrinking handsets, and extending battery life. In 1996, one provider, a specialized mobile radio (“SMR” or “dispatch”) spectrum licensee, began to use its SMR spectrum to offer mobile wireless telecommunications services comparable to those offered by other mobile wireless telecommunications services providers, in conjunction with its dispatch, or “push-to-talk,” service.

Today, more than 99% of the U.S. population lives in counties where mobile wireless telecommunications services operators offer digital service, and nearly all mobile wireless voice service has migrated to second-generation or “2G” digital technologies: TDMA (time division multiple access), GSM (global standard for mobile, a type of TDMA standard used by all carriers in Europe), and CDMA (code division multiple access). Mobile wireless telecommunications services providers have chosen to build their networks on these incompatible technologies and most have chosen CDMA or GSM, with TDMA having been orphaned by equipment vendors. (The SMR providers use a fourth incompatible technological standard better suited to the spectrum they own, and, as SMR licensees, they have no obligation to support a specific technology standard.) Even more advanced technologies (“3G”) have begun to be deployed for voice and data. In all of the geographic areas alleged in the complaint, ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless own the 25 MHz cellular licenses and each own some additional PCS licenses. Cellular spectrum, because of its propagation characteristics, is more efficient to use in serving rural areas.

C. The Competitive Effects of the Transaction on Mobile Wireless Telecommunications Services

ALLTEL's proposed acquisition of Midwest Wireless will substantially lessen competition in mobile wireless telecommunications services in four relevant geographic areas. Mobile wireless telecommunications services include both voice and data services provided over a radio network and allow customers to maintain their telephone calls or data sessions without wires, such as when traveling. Fixed wireless services and other wireless services that have a limited range (e.g., Wi-Fi) do not offer a viable alternative to mobile wireless telecommunications services primarily because customers using these services cannot maintain a call or data session while moving from one location to another.

Most customers use mobile wireless telecommunications services in close proximity to their workplaces and homes. Thus, customers purchasing mobile wireless telecommunications services choose among mobile wireless telecommunications services providers that offer services where they are located and travel on a regular basis: home, work, other areas they commonly visit, and areas in between. The number and identity of mobile wireless telecommunications services providers varies from geographic area to geographic area, along with the quality of their services and the breadth of their geographic coverage, all of which are significant factors in customers' purchasing decisions. Mobile wireless telecommunications services providers can and do offer different promotions, discounts, calling plans, and equipment subsidies in different geographic areas, Start Printed Page 55025effectively varying the actual price for customers by geographic area.

The relevant geographic markets for mobile wireless telecommunications services are, therefore, local in nature. The FCC has licensed a limited number of mobile wireless telecommunications services providers in these and other geographic areas based upon the availability of radio spectrum. These FCC spectrum licensing areas often represent the core of the business and social sphere where customers face the same competitive choices for mobile wireless telecommunications services. Although not all FCC spectrum licensing areas are relevant geographic areas for the purpose of analyzing the antitrust impact of this transaction, the FCC spectrum licensing areas that encompass the four geographic areas of concern in this transaction are where consumers in these communities principally use their mobile wireless telecommunications services. As described in the Complaint, the relevant geographic markets where the transaction will substantially lessen competition for mobile wireless telecommunications services are represented by the following FCC spectrum licensing areas which are all RSAs in southern Minnesota: Minnesota RSA-7 (CMA 488), Minnesota RSA-8 (CMA 489), Minnesota RSA-9 (CMA 490), and Minnesota RSA-10 (CMA 491). These four RSAs include the counties of Blue Earth, Brown, Chippewa, Cottonwood, Fairbault, Freeborn, Jackson, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Le Sueuer, Lincoln, Lyon, Martin, McLeod, Meeker, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Pipestone, Redwood, Renville, Rice, Rock, Sibley, Steele, Waseca, Watowan and Yellow Medicine.

The four geographic markets of concern for mobile wireless telecommunications services were identified by a fact-specific, market-by-market analysis that included consideration of, but was not limited to, the following factors: The number of mobile wireless telecommunications services providers and their competitive strengths and weaknesses; ALLTEL's and Midwest Wireless's market shares along with those of the other providers; whether additional spectrum is or is likely soon to be available; whether any providers are limited by insufficient spectrum or other factors in their ability to add new customers; the concentration of the market, and the breadth and depth of coverage by different providers in each market; and the likelihood that any provider would expand its existing coverage.

ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless both own businesses that offer mobile wireless telecommunications services in the four relevant geographic areas. The companies' combined market shares for mobile wireless telecommunications services in the relevant markets as measured in terms of subscribers range from over 60% to nearly 95%. In each relevant geographic market, Midwest Wireless has the largest market share, and, in all but one RSA, ALLTEL is the second-largest mobile wireless telecommunications services provider. In all of the relevant geographic markets, ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless own the only 800 MHz band cellular spectrum licenses which are more efficient in serving rural areas than 1900 MHz band PCS spectrum. As a result of holding the cellular spectrum licenses and being early entrants into these markets, ALLTEL's and Midwest Wireless's networks provide greater depth and breadth of coverage than their competitors, which are operating on PCS spectrum in the relevant geographic markets, and thus are more attractive to consumers.

In addition, mobile wireless telecommunications services providers with partial coverage in a geographic area do not aggressively market their services in this location because potential customers would use their wireless telephones primarily in places where these providers have no network. In theory, these less built-out providers could service residents of these rural areas through roaming agreements but, as a practical matter, when service is provided on another carrier's network, the providers would have to pay roaming charges to, and rely on, that carrier to maintain the quality of the network. Because of these constraints, the other providers who own partially built-out networks in the four geographic areas are reluctant to market their services to rural residents of these areas. Therefore, ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless are likely closer substitutes for each other than the other mobile wireless telecommunications services providers in the relevant geographic markets. Additionally, postmerger in these markets, there will be insufficient remaining competitors, with the type of coverage desired by customers, and the ability to compete effectively to defeat a small, but significant price increase by the merged firm.

The relevant geographic markets for mobile wireless telecommunications services are highly concentrated. As measured by the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (“HHI”), which is commonly employed in merger analysis and is defined and explained in Appendix A to the Complaint, concentration in these markets ranges from over 3600 to more than 5600, which is well above the 1800 threshold at which the Department considers a market to be highly concentrated. After ALLTEL's proposed acquisition of Midwest Wireless is consummated, the HHIs in the relevant geographic markets will range from over 4700 to over 9100, with increases in the HHI as a result of the merger ranging from over 1000 to over 4100.

Competition between ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless in the relevant geographic markets has resulted in lower prices and higher quality in mobile wireless telecommunications services than would otherwise have existed in these geographic markets. If ALLTEL's proposed acquisition of Midwest Wireless is consummated, the competition between ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless in mobile wireless telecommunications services will be eliminated in these markets and the relevant geographic markets for mobile wireless telecommunications services will become substantially more concentrated. As a result, the loss of competition between ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless increases the likelihood of unilateral actions by the merged firm in the relevant geographic markets to increase prices, diminish the quality or quantity of services provided, and refrain from or delay making investments in network improvements.

Entry by a new mobile wireless telecommunications services provider in the relevant geographic markets would be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive, requiring the acquisition of spectrum licenses and the build-out of a network. Expansion by providers who hold spectrum in these areas and are only partially built-out is also unlikely as the relevant geographic markets are rural service areas where the combined firm would own all of the available 800 MHz spectrum. Due to propagation characteristics of 800 MHz cellular spectrum and 1900 MHz PCS spectrum, the 800 MHz signals can cover a substantially broader area than the 1900 MHz signals. The estimated coverage advantage of the 800 MHz spectrum in rural areas ranges from two to as much as five times greater than PCS. In rural markets, this difference results in higher build-out costs for PCS networks than for cellular networks. The high costs of constructing PCS networks in rural markets combined with the relatively low population density makes it less likely that carriers that own PCS spectrum would build out in the relevant geographic markets. Therefore, new entry in response to a small but significant price increase for mobile wireless telecommunications services by the merged firm in the relevant Start Printed Page 55026geographic markets would not be timely, likely, or sufficient to thwart the competitive harm that would result from ALLTEL's proposed acquisition of Midwest Wireless.

For these reasons, plaintiffs concluded that ALLTEL's proposed acquisition of Midwest Wireless will likely substantially lessen competition, in violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act, in the provision of mobile wireless telecommunications services in the relevant geographic markets.

III. Explanation of the Proposed Final Judgment

The divestiture requirements of the proposed Final Judgment will eliminate the anticompetitive effects of the acquisition in mobile wireless telecommunications services in the four geographic markets of concern. The proposed Final Judgment requires defendants, within 120 days after the filing of the Complaint, or 5 days after notice of the entry of the Final Judgment by the Court, whichever is later, to divest the Divestiture Assets. The Divestiture Assets are essentially ALLTEL's entire mobile wireless telecommunications services business and 800 MHz cellular spectrum in the four markets where ALLTEL and Midwest Wireless are each other's closest competitors for mobile wireless telecommunications services. These assets must be divested in such a way as to satisfy plaintiff United States in its sole discretion upon consultation with plaintiff Minnesota, that they will be operated by the purchaser as a viable, ongoing business that can compete effectively in the relevant market. Defendants must take all reasonable steps necessary to accomplish the divestitures quickly and shall cooperate with prospective purchasers.

The merged firm may retain ALLTEL's PCS wireless spectrum in the four geographic areas and ALLTEL's GSM roaming business, including GSM roaming contracts and equipment. ALLTEL's PCS spectrum is used primarily to provide roaming services to other providers who use GSM technology. Midwest Wireless does not currently provide GSM roaming and therefore the proposed acquisition will not lessen competition in providing these services. In requiring divestitures, plaintiffs seek to make certain that the potential buyer acquires all the assets it may need to be a viable competitor and replace the competition lost by the merger. The 25 MHz of cellular spectrum that must be divested will support the operation and expansion of the mobile wireless telecommunications services businesses being divested, allowing the buyer to be a viable competitor to the merged entity.

The proposed Final Judgment requires that the Divestiture Assets be divested to a single acquirer who, as a result, will be able to supply service to customers that require mobile wireless telecommunications service throughout southern rural Minnesota in the same way that ALLTEL is currently able to provide that service. This provision resolves concerns about the loss of competition for customers that demand coverage over a combination of Minnesota FCC licensing areas, in addition to the concerns due to eliminating competition within each licensing area.

A. Timing of Divestitures

In antitrust cases involving mergers or joint ventures in which plaintiff United States seeks a divestiture remedy, it requires completion of the divestitures within the shortest time period reasonable under the circumstances. In this case, Section IV.A of the proposed Final Judgment requires the divestiture of the Divestiture Assets, within 120 days after the filing of the Complaint, or 5 days after notice of the entry of the Final Judgment by the Court, whichever is later. Plaintiff United States in its sole discretion upon consultation with plaintiff Minnesota may extend the date for divestiture of the Divestiture Assets by up to 60 days. Because the FCC's approval is required for the transfer of the wireless licenses to a purchaser, Section IV.A provides that if applications for transfer of a wireless license have been filed with the FCC, but the FCC has not acted dispositively before the end of the required divestiture period, the period for divestiture of those assets shall be extended until 5 days after the FCC has acted.

The divestiture timing provisions of the proposed Final Judgment will ensure that the divestitures are carried out in a timely manner, and at the same time will permit defendants an adequate opportunity to accomplish the divestitures through a fair and orderly process. Even if all Divestiture Assets have not been divested upon consummation of the transaction, there should be no adverse impact on competition given the limited duration of the period of common ownership and the detailed requirements of the Preservation of Assets Order.

B. Use of a Management Trustee

The Preservation of Assets Stipulation and the Preservation of Assets Order, submitted simultaneously with this Competitive Impact Statement, ensures that, prior to divestiture, the Divestiture Assets are maintained and remain an economically viable ongoing business concern. The Divestiture Assets will remain preserved, independent and uninfluenced by defendants, so that competition is maintained during the pendency of the ordered divestiture.

The Preservation of Assets Order appoints a management trustee selected by plaintiff United States upon consultation with plaintiff Minnesota to oversee the Divestiture Assets in the relevant geographic markets. The appointment of a management trustee in this unique situation is required because the Divestiture Assets are not independent facilities that can be held separate and operated as standalone units by the merged firm. Rather, the Divestiture Assets are an integral part of a larger network, and to maintain their competitive viability and economic value, they should remain part of that network during the divestiture period. To insure that these assets are preserved and supported by defendants during this period, yet run independently, a management trustee is necessary to oversee the continuing relationship between defendants and these assets. The management trustee will have the power to operate the Divestiture Assets in the ordinary course of business, so that they will remain preserved, independent, and uninfluenced by defendants, and so that the Divestiture Assets remain an ongoing and economically viable competitor to defendants and to other mobile wireless telecommunications services providers. The management trustee will preserve the confidentiality of competitively sensitive marketing, pricing, and sales information; insure defendants' compliance with the Preservation of Assets Order and the proposed Final Judgment; and maximize the value of the Divestiture Assets so as to permit expeditious divestiture in a manner consistent with the proposed Final Judgment.

The Preservation of Assets Order provides that defendants will pay all costs and expenses of the management trustee, including the cost of consultants, accountants, attorneys, and other representatives and assistants hired by the management trustee as are reasonably necessary to carry out his or her duties and responsibilities. After his or her appointment becomes effective, the management trustee will file monthly reports with plaintiffs setting forth the efforts to accomplish the goals of the Preservation of Assets Order and the proposed Final Judgment and the extent to which defendants are fulfilling their responsibilities. Finally, the Start Printed Page 55027management trustee may become the divestiture trustee, pursuant to the provisions of Section V of the proposed Final Judgment.

C. Use of a Divestiture Trustee

In the event that defendants do not accomplish the divestiture within the periods prescribed in the proposed Final Judgment, the Final Judgment provides that the Court will appoint a trustee selected by plaintiff United States upon consultation with plaintiff Minnesota to effect the divestitures. As part of this divestiture, defendants must relinquish any direct or indirect financial ownership interests and any direct or indirect role in management or participation in control. Pursuant to Section V of the proposed Final Judgment, the divestiture trustee will own and control the Divestiture Assets until they are sold to a final purchaser, subject to safeguards to prevent defendants from influencing their operation.

Section V details the requirements for the establishment of the divestiture trust, the selection and compensation of the divestiture trustee, the responsibilities of the divestiture trustee in connection with the divestiture and operation of the Divestiture Assets, and the termination of the divestiture trust. The divestiture trustee will have the obligation and the sole responsibility, under Section V.D, for the divestiture of any transferred Divestiture Assets. The divestiture trustee has the authority to accomplish divestitures at the earliest possible time and “at such price and on such terms as are then obtainable upon reasonable effort by the Divestiture Trustee.” In addition, to insure that the divestiture trustee can promptly locate and divest to an acceptable purchaser, plaintiff United States, in its sole discretion upon consultation with plaintiff Minnesota, may require defendants to include additional assets, or allow defendants to substitute substantially similar assets, which substantially relate to the Divestiture Assets to be divested by the divestiture trustee.

The divestiture trustee will not only have responsibility for sale of the Divestiture Assets, but will also be the authorized holder of the wireless licenses, with full responsibility for the operations, marketing, and sales of the wireless businesses to be divested, and will not be subject to any control or direction by defendants. Defendants will no longer have any role in the ownership, operation, or management of the Divestiture Assets following consummation of the transaction, as provided by Section V, other than the right to receive the proceeds of the sale, and certain obligations to provide support to the Divestiture Assets, and cooperate with the divestiture trustee in order to complete the divestiture, as indicated in Section V.L and in the Preservation of Assets Order.

The proposed Final Judgment provides that defendants will pay all costs and expenses of the divestiture trustee. The divestiture trustee's commission will be structured, under Section V.G of the proposed Final Judgment, so as to provide an incentive for the divestiture trustee based on the price obtained and the speed with which the divestitures are accomplished. After his or her appointment becomes effective, the divestiture trustee will file monthly reports with the Court and plaintiffs setting forth his or her efforts to accomplish the divestitures. Section V.J requires the divestiture trustee to divest the Divestiture Assets to an acceptable purchaser no later than six months after the assets are transferred to the divestiture trustee. At the end of six months, if all divestitures have not been accomplished, the trustee and plaintiff United States upon consultation with plaintiff Minnesota, will make recommendations to the Court, which shall enter such orders as appropriate in order to carry out the purpose of the trust, including extending the trust or term of the trustee's appointment.

The divestiture provisions of the proposed Final Judgment will eliminate the anticompetitive effects of the transaction in the provision of mobile wireless telecommunications services. The divestitures of the Divestiture Assets will preserve competition in mobile wireless telecommunications services by maintaining an independent and economically viable competitor in the relevant geographic markets.

IV. Remedies Available to Potential Private Litigants

Section 4 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 15, provides that any person who has been injured as a result of conduct prohibited by the antitrust laws may bring suit in federal court to recover three times the damages the person has suffered, as well as costs and reasonable attorneys' fees. Entry of the proposed Final Judgment will neither impair nor assist the bringing of any private antitrust damage action. Under the provisions of Section 5(a) of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 16(a), the proposed Final Judgment has no prima facie effect in any subsequent private lawsuit that may be brought against defendants.

V. Procedures Available for Modification of the Proposed Final Judgment

Plaintiffs and defendants have stipulated that the proposed Final Judgment may be entered by the Court after compliance with the provisions of the APPA, provided that plaintiff United States has not withdrawn its consent. The APPA conditions entry upon the Court's determination that the proposed Final Judgment is in the public interest.

The APPA provides a period of at least 60 days preceding the effective date of the proposed Final Judgment within which any person may submit to plaintiff United States written comments regarding the proposed Final Judgment. Any person who wishes to comment should do so within 60 days of the date of publication of this Competitive Impact Statement in the Federal Register. All comments received during this period will be considered by the Department of Justice, which remains free to withdraw its consent to the proposed Final Judgment at any time prior to the Court's entry of judgment. The comments and the response of plaintiff United States will be filed with the Court and published in the Federal Register.

Written comments should be submitted to: Nancy M. Goodman, Chief, Telecommunications and Media Enforcement Section, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 1401 H Street, NW., Suite 8000, Washington, DC 20530.

The proposed Final Judgment provides that the Court retains jurisdiction over this action, and the parties may apply to the Court for any order necessary or appropriate for the modification, interpretation, or enforcement of the Final Judgment.

VI. Alternatives to the Proposed Final Judgment

Plaintiff United States considered, as an alternative to the proposed Final Judgment, a full trial on the merits against defendants. Plaintiff United States could have continued the litigation and sought preliminary and permanent injunctions against ALLTEL's acquisition of Midwest Wireless. Plaintiff United States is satisfied, however, that the divestiture of assets and other relief described in the proposed Final Judgment will preserve competition for the provision of mobile wireless telecommunications services in the relevant markets and, thus, would achieve all or substantially all of the relief the government would Start Printed Page 55028have obtained through litigation, but without the time and expense of a trial.

VII. Standard of Review Under the APPA for the Proposed Final Judgment

The APPA requires that proposed consent judgments in antitrust cases brought by the United States be subject to a 60 day comment period, after which the Court shall determine whether entry of the proposed Final Judgment “is in the public interest.” 15 U.S.C. 16(e)(1). In making that determination, the Court shall consider:

(A) The competitive impact of such judgment, including termination of alleged violations, provisions for enforcement and modification, duration or relief sought, anticipated effects of alternative remedies actually considered, whether its terms are ambiguous, and any other competitive considerations bearing upon the adequacy of such judgment that the court deems necessary to a determination of whether the consent judgment is in the public interest; and

(B) The impact of entry of such judgment upon competition in the relevant market or markets, upon the public generally and individuals alleging specific injury from the violations set forth in the complaint including consideration of the public benefit, if any, to be derived from a determination of the issues at trial.

15 U.S.C. 16( e)(l)(A) & (B).[1] As the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has held, the APPA permits a court to consider, among other things, the relationship between the remedy secured and the specific allegations set forth in the government's complaint, whether the consent judgment is sufficiently clear, whether enforcement mechanisms are sufficient, and whether the consent judgment may positively harm third parties. See United States v. Microsoft Corp., 56 F.3d 1448, 1458-62 (D.C. Cir. 1995).

With respect to the adequacy of the relief secured by the decree, a court may not “engage in an unrestricted evaluation of what relief would best serve the public.” United States v. BNS, Inc., 858 F.2d 456, 462 (9th Cir. 1988) (citing United States v. Bechtel Corp., 648 F.2d 660, 666 (9th Cir. 1981)); see also Microsoft, 56 F.3d at 1460-62. Courts have held that

[t]he balancing of competing social and political interests affected by a proposed antitrust consent decree must be left, in the first instance, to the discretion of the Attorney General. The court's role in protecting the public interest is one of insuring that the government has not breached its duty to the public in consenting to the decree. The court is required to determine not whether a particular decree is the one that will best serve society, but whether the settlement is “within the reaches of the public interest.” More elaborate requirements might undermine the effectiveness of antitrust enforcement by consent decree.

Bechtel, 648 F.2d at 666 (emphasis added) (citations omitted).[2] In making its public interest determination, a district court must accord due respect to the government's prediction as to the effect of proposed remedies, its perception of the market structure, and its views of the nature of the case. United States v. Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., 272 F. Supp. 2d 1, 6 (D.D.C. 2003).

Court approval of a final judgment requires a standard more flexible and less strict than the standard required for a funding of liability. “[A] proposed decree must be approved even if it falls short of the remedy the court would impose on its own, as long as it falls within the range of acceptability or is ‘within the reaches of public interest.’ ” United States v. AT&T Co., 552 F. Supp. 131, 151 (D.D.C. 1982) (citations omitted) (quoting Gillette Co., 406 F. Supp. at 716), aff'd sub nom. Maryland v. United States, 460 U.S. 1001 (1983); see also United States v. Alcan Aluminum Ltd., 605 F. Supp. 619, 622 (W.D. Ky. 1985) (approving the consent decree even though the court would have imposed a greater remedy).

Moreover, the Court's role under the APPA is limited to reviewing the remedy in relationship to the violations that the United States has alleged in its Complaint, and does not authorize the Court to “construct [its] own hypothetical case and then evaluate the decree against that case.” Microsoft, 56 F.3d at 1459. Because the “court's authority to review the decree depends entirely on the government's exercising its prosecutorial discretion by bringing a case in the first place,” it follows that “the court is only authorized to review the decree itself,” and not to “effectively redraft the complaint” to inquire into other matters that the United States did not pursue. Id. at 1459-60.

In its 2004 amendments to the Tunney Act, Congress made clear its intent to preserve the practical benefits of utilizing consent decrees in antitrust enforcement, adding the unambiguous instruction “[n]othing in this section shall be construed to require the court to conduct an evidentiary hearing or to require the court to permit anyone to intervene.” 15 U.S.C. § 16(e)(2). This language codified the intent of the original 1974 statute, expressed by Senator Tunney in the legislative history: “The court is nowhere compelled to go to trial or to engage in extended proceedings which might have the effect of vitiating the benefits of prompt and less costly settlement through the consent decree process.” 119 Cong. Rec. 24,598 (1973) (statement of Senator Tunney). Rather:

Absent a showing of corrupt failure of the government to discharge its duty, the Court, in making its public interest finding, should * * * carefully consider the explanations of the government in the competitive impact statement and its responses to comments in order to determine whether those explanations are reasonable under the circumstances.

United States v. Mid-Am. Dairymen, Inc., 1977-1 Trade Cas. (CCH) ¶ 61,508, at 71,980 (W.D. Mo. 1977).

VIII. Determinative Documents

There are no determinative materials or documents within the meaning of the APPA that were considered by plaintiff United States in formulating the proposed Final Judgment.

Dated: September 7, 2006.

  Respectfully submitted,

Rachel K. Paulose,

United States Attorney.

Perry F. Sekus (No. 0309412),

Assistant United States Attorney, 600 United States Courthouse, 300 South Fourth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55415, (612) 664-5600, Facsimile: (612) 664-5788.

Hillary B. Burchuk,

Lawrence M. Frankel,

Attorneys, Telecommunications & Media, Enforcement Section, Antitrust Division.

U.S. Department of Justice, City Center Building, 1401 H Street, NW., Suite 8000, Washington, DC 20530, (202) 514-5621, Facsimile: (202) 514-6381.

End Preamble

Footnotes

1.  In 2004, Congress amended the APPA to ensure that courts take into account the above-quoted list of relevant factors when making a public interest determination. Compare 15 U.S.C. 16(e) (2004), with 15 U.S.C. 16 (e)(1) (2006) (substituting “shall” for “may” in directing relevant factors for courts to consider and amending list of factors to focus on competitive considerations and to address potentially ambiguous judgment terms). On the points discussed herein, the 2004 amendments did not alter the substance of the Tunney Act, and the pre-2004 precedents cited below remain applicable.

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2.  Cf. BNS, 858 F.2d at 464 (holding that the court's “ultimate authority under the [APPA] is limited to approving or disapproving the consent decree”); United States v. Gillette Co., 406 F. Supp. 713, 716 (D. Mass. 1975) (noting that, in this way, the court is constrained to “look at the overall picture not hypercritically, nor with a microscope, but with an artist's reducing glass”); see generally Microsoft, 56 F.3d at 1461 (discussing whether “the remedies [obtained in the decree are] so inconsonant with the allegations charged as to fall outside of the ‘reaches of the public interest’ ”).

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[FR Doc. 06-7766 Filed 9-19-06; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4410-11-M