Plaintiffs’ counsel in the antitrust lawsuit aiming to halt the merger (free reg. req.) of United and Continental airlines won a minor victory in court today when a federal judge agreed there was an apparent “discrepancy” in an airline executive’s testimony.
San Francisco attorney Joseph Alioto seized on news accounts quoting Continental Airline’s Chief Executive Officer Jeff Smisek on possible cuts in flights from Cleveland. Alioto said Smisek should have to say under oath whether there was one or multiple “simulations” addressing possible changes to Cleveland routes before the merger plans were announced in May. The attorney told the judge in the second day of an injunction hearing that clarifying Smisek’s testimony is important because if multiple simulations exist, they speak to pre-merger motive and intent.
U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg wouldn’t agree to haul the “busy” executive back to the San Francisco courtroom to clarify. But he conceded there was a discrepancy, and said he’d later decide on having Smisek address it in a declaration or in a narrowly-focused video deposition.
Alioto sued the airlines in June on behalf of 49 named consumers to stop the merger, arguing it could increase fares and decrease service. He was behind a similar antitrust lawsuit in 2008 when Delta was in the process of acquiring Northwest. It settled for $5 million.