WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department said CenturyLink Inc agreed to settle allegations it repeatedly violated a court-ordered judgment designed to prevent anticompetitive effects stemming from its $24 billion acquisition of rival wireline telecommunications provider Level 3 Communications Inc in 2017.
The Justice Department said CenturyLink had initiated contact on over 70 occasions with former Level 3 customers even though the judgment barred it from soliciting customers that switched to the buyer of assets divested during the deal. CenturyLink has agreed to the appointment of an independent trustee to monitor an amended court agreement, the Justice Department said.
CenturyLink said it disagreed with the government’s view that it violated the terms of the judgement but was “pleased with the cooperative partnership of the Department of Justice in reaching a resolution that was in the best interest of all parties.”
CenturyLink will pay the United States $250,000 to defray costs of the investigation of CenturyLink’s violations. It also agreed to extend the non-solicitation period by two years in Idaho where the government said the inappropriate contacts were made.
When they agreed to tie-up, CenturyLink and Level 3 were two of the largest wireline telecommunications service providers in the United States, competing to provide telecommunications services to enterprise and wholesale customers.
Makan Delrahim, the Justice Department’s top antitrust official, said in a statement that when a “defendant violates the terms of a settlement decree, it must be held accountable to its obligations to the department and the American consumer.” He added the settlement ensure customers “get the benefit of competition otherwise lost by CenturyLink’s acquisition of Level 3 Communications.”
CenturyLink shares closed up 2%.
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