By Paula Dwyer
It wasn't exactly an ultimatum, but it was certainly wrapped in the American flag.
AT&T Inc. Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson yesterday offered to repatriate 5,000 overseas call-center jobs once his company's $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA Inc. went through.
In addition, Stephenson said, AT&T wouldn't cut any U.S.-based call-center jobs as a result of the deal.
Translation: If the merger doesn't happen, overseas jobs will not return stateside -- and domestic jobs might be cut.
"At a time when many Americans are struggling and our economy faces significant challenges, we’re pleased that the T-Mobile merger allows us to bring 5,000 jobs back to the United States and significantly increase our investment here,” the chief executive officer's statement said.
Today, Stephenson got the bad news: The Department of Justice is filing suit to block the T-Mobile takeover. Justice officials say the merger, which would have combined the No. 2 and No. 4 mobile-phone carriers to surpass No. 1 Verizon Wireless, would have eliminated an innovator and price-cutter.
AT&T says it will vigorously contest the matter in court, and denies it had any indication that DoJ planned to block the merger.
But what about that promise? If it made sense to bring thousands of call-center jobs home yesterday, it should still make sense today -- even without the T-Mobile deal. After all, many Americans continue to struggle, and the U.S. economy continues to face significant challenges. That much is true.
(Paula Dwyer is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.)-0- Aug/31/2011 18:36 GMT