EchoStar Communications Corp. and Hughes Electronics Corp. said Friday that
they have retained former New York State Attorney General Stephen Houck to serve
as a liaison with states that have expressed concern over the proposed merger
between the two direct-broadcast satellite firms.
In a conference call Friday, Houck told reporters it was unlikely that the
states would file suit against the merger imminently.
'To my knowledge, no state has filed a lawsuit until the U.S. Department of
Justice has completed its investigation,' Houck said. 'There's no basis to file
a lawsuit until there is a need to do so.'
He added that it could be detrimental for states' ongoing relationships with
the DOJ if they filed ahead of a federal decision.
Houck, an attorney with New York-based law firm Reboul, MacMurray, Hewitt,
Maynard & Kristol, will supply the states with any documents from the DBS
firms relevant to the merger at the same time they're sent to the DOJ.
When authorized by the merging parties, the DOJ and the states often discuss
their concerns with each other, Houck said, noting that because the states are
'closer to the ground' when it comes to consumer issues, their perspective is
valuable to the DOJ.
When asked what kind of influence the states would ultimately have over a DOJ
decision, Houck replied, 'In my experience, the federal government considers
itself its own sovereign.'
Houck said he's not surprised that the states are interested in the merger,
given that television directly impacts consumers.
But he would not say what concessions the states or the DOJ might seek in
negotiating a consent decree. 'I won't negotiate against myself,' Houck
He added that the document-review process would likely take 'months.'
Houck plans to meet with a group of states' attorneys in Washington, D.C.,
within the next two weeks.
Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon has been at the forefront of states
raising concerns about the merger.