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Senate Judiciary Committee Sets Hearing on AT&T-Time Warner Deal, But Invited Wrong CEO

The committee initially invited Rob Marcus, the former head of Time Warner Cable — instead of Jeff Bewkes — to the Dec. 7 session

Washington insiders from Hillary Clinton to Tim Kaine and Bernie Sanders — as well as an aspiring one, Donald Trump — have raised concerns about AT&T’s proposed $85 billion purchase of Time Warner, which would further consolidate the media landscape.

This week, the Senate decided to have the bosses of both companies come to Capitol Hill to answer some questions. One problem: the officials on the Senate subcommittee investigating the deal — Sens. Chuck Grassley, Patrick Leahy, Mike Lee and Amy Klobuchar — initially invited the wrong Time Warner CEO.

A letter from the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee invited AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson to a hearing to be held at Dec. 7 at 10 a.m., along with Robert Marcus — the former CEO of Time Warner Cable, which was acquired by Charter Communications earlier this year. A revised release extended an invitation to the correct Time Warner CEO, Jeff Bewkes.

A number of media observers who spoke to TheWrap expected the proposed merger of America’s oldest phone company with one of its biggest content houses to attract plenty of regulatory scrutiny.

In a research note from last week, Wells Fargo analyst Marci Ryvicker wrote that “we think D.C. has had many regrets over [the merger of Comcast and NBCUniversal],” which might be the closest comparison to this deal, despite approving the merger with a litany of conditions.

And the current political climate, which seems to be increasingly suspicious of corporate mergers — both Trump, who won the Republican nomination, and Sanders, who came close to the Democratic nod, immediately called on Congress to reject the deal — could have the elected officials who make up the subcommittee holding the hearing less likely to give it a rubber stamp.

“I can see regulators taking a very, very long look at this,” Kyle Mayer, a professor of vertical integration and M&A at USC’s Marshall School of Business, told TheWrap.

That look can begin now that they’ve invited the correct executives.

Matt Donnelly contributed reporting.