AT&T appears to still be smarting over its failed $39 billion bid for T-Mobile USA, a deal that fell apart last December under intense government scrutiny. Now, some of those feelings are being aired via a blog post from AT&T’s Jim Cicconi, senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs.
And the reason for the comments are tied directly to the news that T-Mobile plans to close seven call centers across the country, jobs that AT&T said it would have preserved had the deal gone through. On Thursday, T-Mobile said it plans to close seven call centers in Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Kansas and Colorado. About 1,900 people will lose their jobs.
It’s pretty rare to see this sort of language used in corporate America, especially directed toward a government agency. Here are the full remarks from Cicconi:
“Yesterday, T-Mobile made the sad announcement that it would be closing seven call centers, laying off thousands of workers, and that more layoff announcements may follow. Normally, we’d not comment on something like this. But I feel this is an exception for one big reason– only a few months ago AT&T promised to preserve these very same call centers and jobs if our merger was approved. We also predicted that if the merger failed, T-Mobile would be forced into major layoffs.
At that time, the current FCC not only rejected our pledges and predictions, they also questioned our credibility. The FCC argued that the merger would cost jobs, not preserve them, and that rejecting it would save jobs. In short, the FCC said they were right, we were wrong, and did so in an aggressive and adamant way.
Rarely are a regulatory agency’s predictive judgments proven so wrong so fast. But for the government’s decision, centers now being closed would be staying open, workers now facing layoffs would have job guarantees, and communities facing turmoil would have security. Only a few months later, the truth of who was right is sadly obvious.
So what’s the lesson here? For one thing, it’s a reminder of why “regulatory humility” should be more than a slogan. The FCC may consider itself an expert agency on telecom, but it is not omniscient. And when it ventures far afield from technical issues, and into judgments about employment or predictions about business decisions, it has often been wildly wrong. The other lesson is even more important, and should be sobering. It is a reminder that in government, as in life, decisions have consequences. One must approach them not as an exercise of power but instead of responsibility, because, as I learned in my years of public service, the price of a bad decision is too often paid by someone else.”