Ken Wilbur, an Associate Professor of Quantitative Marketing and Business Analytics at the Rady School of Management, recently worked as an advertising expert in the AT&T – Time Warner anti-trust case. The case, described as one of the most influential antitrust cases in recent history, was decided on June 12, 2018 with a federal judge approving the merger.
In a Q & A, Wilbur provided some insights and described the role he played in this landmark legal case.
Q: I understand you worked as an expert on U.S. v. AT&T, the court case that challenged the merger between AT&T and Time Warner. How would you describe the case?
A: It was one of the largest mergers ever proposed. Some newspapers called it as the “antitrust case of the decade.” The combined entity brings in more than $100 billion in annual revenue. It is a “vertical merger,” which is to say, a merger between channel partners.”
Q: What were the major issues in the case?
A: There were a lot of issues, but one of AT&T’s main arguments was that they require scale to create a new advertising platform to compete with tech giants like Facebook and Google to sell ads. The government challenged the merger partly on the basis that AT&T could reduce competition and raise prices in the online video market by preventing competitors from carrying popular cable networks.
Q: What was your specific role in the case?
A: Each side employed a handful of experts. The role of the experts was to write reports and answer questions on specific topics to explain their side’s position to the judge. There were also multiple rounds of rebuttals between teams of experts on each of the major issues in the case.
Q: Is it common for Rady School faculty to work on legislation like this?
A: The university faculty’s main functions are research, teaching and service. Sometimes, the service mission includes helping companies, courts, regulators, non-profits, or other groups to perform their functions more effectively, for the good of society. Faculty with specific expertise sometimes get asked to apply that expertise; that’s part of the job.