Franken: ‘Comcast Jumped the Gun on Leadership Announcement’

Senator urges AG to investigate whether the cable company violated anti-trust law in announcing its new management

Al Franken is none too happy that Comcast decided to let the world in on who would be running the media company if and when it merges with NBC-Universal.

The Minnesota senator wrote a letter on Monday to Christine Varney, assistant attorney general for anti-trust, asking her to investigate whether the company violated the law in announcing its new management team ahead of governmental approval.

"By announcing the future leadership of NBC Universal well in advance of federal approval, Comcast may be seeking to indirectly exert managerial and operational control of the company. Moreover, in doing so, Comcast may purposefully or inadvertently trigger the exchange of competitively sensitive information between the companies, beyond what is customarily permissible in premerger settings," Franken wrote.

Franken said that the move contradicted earlier statements by Comcast and could be construed as "gun jumping."

"There will be no additional structural or personnel announcements until the deal closing process and timing is certain," Comcast Chief Operating Officer Steve Burke said in a statement last September.

Burke will be the chief executive at NBC-Universal following the merger.

Franken is apparently not the only federal official questioning Comcast's announcement of its new leadership slate. Federal regulators were privately upset over the company's announcement, according to the New York Times. They believe that the unveiling was inappropriate, because the government has not had an opportunity to impose restrictions against anti-competitive behavior.

The regulators reportedly resent the fact that Comcast is treating the merger as a foregone conclusion.

Comcast has been aggressively promoting a possible merger on Capitol Hill. It has launched a $100-million campaign and an army of 80-plus lobbyists and public relations experts. In addition, it has has tapped contacts in national organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Boys and Girls Club, to press its case with lawmakers.