In case you don't get the incredible irony or rank hypocrisy here, this is the same bunch of Jackasses that argued last fall that all antitrust cases could only be tried in Arbitration in ATT vs Concepcion (in which they convinced the "gang of five" in the Supreme Court that they were immune from litigation and could only be sued in individual Arbitration's where they pick the judge and win 98% of the time. )But when they are sued in that exact manner ans ask to arbitrate in dozens of arbitration's just like they told the Supreme Court in the Spring, they say no you can't do that either. So what they really want now is clear, complete and utter immunity from everything criminal and civil. Bring back the old kings! Shred the constitution. I am sure they are once again counting on the "gang of five" in the Supreme Court to find a way that they can have their cake and eat it too. I have full faith they will do just that. They rarely miss a chance to give Corporate America exactly what they want regardless of how much it cost everyone else. This is the problem with Big Business and arbitrations, as the big billboards used to say in Alabama they are "licenses to steal." Maybe AT&T should spend more money on their crappy service and awful coverage and less on sueing thier customers.
AT&T sues customers who seek to block T-Mobile deal
8/17/2011 COMMENTS (0)NEW YORK, Aug 17 (Reuters) - AT&T is turning to the federal courts to thwart an effort led by law firm Bursor & Fisher to derail AT&T's $39 billion takeover bid for T-Mobile.
In eight lawsuits filed last week, AT&T accused Bursor & Fisher and a second plaintiffs' firm, Faruqi & Faruqi, of trying to pressure AT&T into "an extortionate settlement" by encouraging AT&T customers to file multiple claims against the merger.
Bursor & Fisher launched a "Fight the Merger" campaign in July, saying the megadeal would violate federal antitrust law and restrict competition. So far, Bursor & Fisher has filed 26 arbitration demands and more than 900 notices of dispute on behalf of AT&T customers who oppose the merger.
In the lawsuits filed last week, AT&T argued that the claims, brought under antitrust law, could not be decided in arbitration. AT&T accused the firms of "taking a thousand bites at the apple" in hopes of finding one arbitrator willing to block the merger.The suits are a dramatic turnaround for AT&T, which just last November argued strongly in favor of arbitration in the Supreme Court case, AT&T v. Concepcion. There, customers had sued AT&T for allegedly advertising discounted cell phones, but charging sales tax on the full price. The Supreme Court sided with AT&T in April, finding that customers who signed phone contracts containing mandatory arbitration clauses waived their right to bring a class action lawsuit against the company. Customers, the court held, had to resolve their disputes with the company in arbitration.
By filing close to a thousand individual arbitration claims, Bursor & Fisher is trying to circumvent the Supreme Court's ruling, AT&T's lawyers said in the eight complaints, which were filed in federal courts across the country.
The complaints point to specific language from customer contracts, which state that customers can only bring claims in their "individual capacity" and "not as a plaintiff or class member in any purported class or representative proceeding."
AT&T argued that although the arbitrations were filed by individual customers, they are not seeking damages for any personal harm they suffered. Rather, they're seeking an injunction to block a $39 billion merger that will affect more than 120 million wireless customers, one complaint said.
"Our arbitration agreement prohibits any form of class-wide relief. The Supreme Court upheld that," AT&T's lawyer, Andrew Pincus, told Reuters. Pincus, of Mayer Brown, also argued the Concepcion case before the Supreme Court.
Scott Bursor, the lawyer behind the "Fight the Merger" campaign, said the American Arbitration Association has already overruled AT&T's objections and moved forward with the arbitration process. "AT&T's filing of these lawsuits appears to be an act of desperation, since AT&T now realizes it faces substantial likelihood that one or more of these arbitrations will stop the takeover from happening," he said in an email, describing the company's legal arguments as "frivolous."
Richard Brunell, the director of legal advocacy at the American Antitrust Institute, described AT&T's legal action as "ironic," given AT&T's prior arguments in the Concepcion case. The problem with the lawsuits, he said, is that AT&T would also prevent customers from filing a lawsuit in federal court. "So their preferred position is that consumers not be able to bring class actions anywhere, which divests consumers of their right to challenge anticompetitive conduct."
But Pincus argued that a single arbitrator should not be able to make a decision that affects "the whole world," pre-empting official reviews by the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Justice and numerous state regulators. Arbitration is not the appropriate venue for an "extremely complicated" analysis of relevant markets, potential effects of the merger on competition and prices and possible enhancements of technological innovation, the complaint said.
Michael Hausfeld, a lawyer who has represented plaintiffs in unrelated antitrust arbitrations, said he knew of no merger that has ever been blocked by an arbitration filed by an individual customer. A pending Department of Justice investigation would likely prevent arbitration proceedings from moving forward, he said.
A representative lawsuit is AT&T Mobility v. Gonnello et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-5636.
For AT&T: Anthony Diana, Andrew Pincus, Evan Tager, Archis Parasharami and Kevin Ranlett of Mayer Brown.
For Gonnello et al: Scott Bursor of Bursor & Fisher.
(Reporting by Terry Baynes)
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