DOJ to airlines: Thanks for asking, but you won't get the documents

Posted on September 26, 2013 

Washington Reagan National Airport is a key sticking point in the Justice Department lawsuit against the American-US Airways merger.

CURTIS TATE — McClatchy

Last week, American Airlines and US Airways demanded that the Justice Department hand over documents from past airline mergers in a bid to discover the reasons why the government had blessed those but challenged theirs.

The answer: None of your business.

In an 11-page response to a 111-page motion, the department said it wasn't required to disclose the documents.

"Such confidential assessments and internal deliberations are plainly privileged and no court has ever ordered similar disclosures by federal antitrust enforcement officials (or by state officials), as far as we know," it said.

The airlines have defended their $11 billion merger, in part, by accusing Justice of changing its rules after approving four big, similar mergers in the past decade.

But the department says its "privileged internal analyses" of past mergers are not relevant to the current case and that disclosing them would set a bad precedent for future cases.

"Defendants have no need for these privileged internal analyses, which are irrelevant to the lawfulness of the challenged merger," the department said. "The compelled disclosure of such analyses would significantly harm the quality of agency decisionmaking by chilling deliberations among government attorneys and economists in future investigations."

The antitrust case, United States v. US Airways, is set to go to trial in late November.

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