Cooper: ‘False Promises’ Prompted Airline Merger Challenge

By Bill Dries


Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper said the state joined the U.S. Justice Department and five other states in opposing the proposed $11 billion merger of U.S. Airways and American Airlines, because of the state’s experience with past airline mergers.

“I don’t need to remind people in Memphis that false promises in previous mergers have never materialized,” Cooper told a group of 100 Tuesday, Aug. 27, at the Memphis Rotary Club, referring to the 2008 Northwest Airlines-Delta Air Lines merger and its impact on airfares and air service at Memphis International Airport.

Cooper said the state joined the legal action this month opposing the mergers because of “significant concerns that the merger will result in decreased competition and increased prices.”

The effect would be “another blow to Memphis air traffic,” said Cooper, adding that past mergers also have had a negative impact on Tennessee’s three other major airports.

Executives from both airlines said earlier this month they will pursue the merger and mount a “strong defense” against the court action challenging the plan.

During the Memphis stop, Cooper also defended the state’s method of selecting the attorney general.

Unlike other states, the office – which serves as the attorney for the executive and legislative branches – is appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

“I think Tennessee already has the best system in the nation,” Cooper said. “Being appointed by the Supreme Court allows me, and any attorney general, to run the office in a non-partisan manner. An appointed A.G. doesn’t have to worry about offending contributors.”

Republican state Sen. Brian Kelsey proposed a bill in the 2013 legislative session that would have changed the office to one chosen by popular election.

“If change is needed, I would say that other states should emulate Tennessee, not the other way around,” Cooper said, without mentioning the proposal or others that would also change the method of selection.