On January 14, 2009, AT&T Inc. (“AT&T”) entered into a civil settlement worth $2 million with the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to settle charges that AT&T was in contempt of a March 2008 consent decree AT&T entered into during its acquisition of Dobson Communications Corporation (“Dobson”).
The consent decreed required AT&T to divest three mobile wireless telecommunications businesses in three rural service areas (RSAs), two in Kentucky and one in Oklahoma. Furthermore the decree and a related court order required AT&T to ensure that the divested businesses remained independent and uninfluenced by AT&T. In addition, AT&T was required to keep all competitive information of the divested businesses confidential and prevent access of such information to unauthorized personnel.
According to the petition filed by the DOJ, AT&T allegedly violated both orders by allowing personnel access to confidential customer account information of the divested businesses. The personnel allegedly used this competitively sensitive information to solicit and win away the divested businesses’ customers by waiving termination fees for several customers of the divested businesses, which facilitated the switching of services from the divested businesses to AT&T.