TA&A Calling


This could be an urban myth, like alligators in the toilets and things that make you go blind, but the talk around some quarters is that the New York Stock Exchange's delisting notice on the AT&T/Bell South merger may have been prompted by an automatic e-mail.

The notice, suggesting that the merger could happen as early as Friday, had lines on Wall Street and K Street buzzing. The prospect was highly unlikely since FCC Chairman Kevin Martin told reporters Wednesday that commissioners were heading out for the holidays and not to look for anything until likely early next year.

It also would have had to be voted on circulation, rather than in an open meeting. Democratic commissioners would be highly unlikely to do that given the appearance of a lack of sunshine.

So, let's say, hypothetically, that a company like AT&T, lets call them TA&A had informed the exchange a while back that the merger would close in fall 2006.

Dec. 21 is, if memory serves, the last day of fall. If there were some automatic notification system, the e-mail might have gone out on its own. Having said that, I'm told that since that hopeful fall filing by TA&A, the companies have moved the target variously to end of '06 and beginning of '07, so it is probably an alligator in the toilet after all.

But it was fun for the few moments it lasted. The thought of some computer concluding that it must be time for the merger strikes just the right note of goofiness in this back-and-forth, recused, unrecused, abstaining, vote/no vote process that has more twists than Chubby Checker in a Twizzler factory.

By John Eggerton.