The U.S. Justice Department is bringing in an outside trial lawyer for its lawsuit against AT&T Inc. (T)’s acquisition of T-Mobile USA Inc., according to two people familiar with the matter.
The department’s antitrust division is hiring Los Angeles- based lawyer Glenn Pomerantz, a partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, to bolster its trial team and work with the division’s chief litigator, Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney General Joseph Wayland, said the people, who declined to be identified because the process of getting Pomerantz on board isn’t final.
Enlisting Pomerantz in the case shows that the Justice Department is preparing for trial and not in the process of negotiating a settlement, said Bert Foer, president of the American Antitrust Institute in Washington.
“This is going to be a very large case that requires additional resources,” Foer said.
Gina Talamona, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, declined to comment on the move. Pomerantz didn’t immediately respond to e-mails and phone calls seeking comment, while AT&T spokesman Michael Balmoris declined to comment.
Adding outside expertise in specific cases isn’t uncommon for the Justice Department and other federal agencies, said Andrew Gavil, a professor at Howard University School of Law in Washington.
In May, the Federal Communications Commission asked a former Justice Department attorney, Renata Hesse, to oversee its review of AT&T’s proposed $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile. Hesse was working with Wilson, Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in Washington at the time.
The most widely known use of an outsider by Justice Department may be its hiring of David Boies in 1998 to spearhead the antitrust case against Microsoft Corp., Gavil said.
“What you’re seeing is a recognition by these agencies that this is a very significant case,” said Gavil, who teaches antitrust law. “They are pulling in some players to round out the depth of the team as they go in. It’s difficult to maintain a full team when you don’t try cases like this very often.”
The FCC is continuing its review of the transaction, which the Justice Department sued to block on Aug. 31.
Pomerantz, who works primarily with media and entertainment companies, according to a biography posted on the Munger, Tolles & Olson website, was sought out for his antitrust litigation experience, one of the people said. He will support Wayland, who will lead the trial team, another person said.
‘Major Television Programmer’
Pomerantz won a dismissal of a federal antitrust case against a “major television programmer” in Los Angeles federal court that was upheld on appeal by the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco, according to his Munger, Tolles profile.
He was named among the top 40 entertainment lawyers by the Los Angeles Business Journal in its 2010 “Who’s Who in L.A. Law,” according to the profile, for winning a preliminary injunction forbidding software maker RealNetworks Inc. from distributing products that copy DVDs. He led a team representing six major motion picture studios in the case.
Following the preliminary injunction, RealNetworks settled with the studios by agreeing to a permanent injunction and reimbursement of the studios’ attorney fees.
Pomerantz also defended a record company in a class action in New York federal court alleging price-fixing of digital downloads, among other cases listed on the law firm profile.
He was also the lead lawyer for the music industry in its successful suit against Internet site Lime Wire LLC in New York. Last year, the judge in the case ruled in summary judgment that Lime Wire infringed music copyrights. Lime Wire agreed to settle for $105 million while a jury was hearing the case for damages this year.
Gavil said the AT&T trial, which is slated to start Feb. 13, is going to be “complicated, with a lot of evidence specific to a regulatory field.”
The second hearing in the case is scheduled Oct. 24 before U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle in Washington.
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