LightSquared Lawsuit Survives On Eve Of Bankruptcy Auction

Dec 11 2013 | 12:03pm ET

Phillip Falcone's wireless Internet venture's share of the electromagnetic spectrum may not be his much longer, but the company can still seek to punish his nemesis.

LightSquared, which is owned by Falcone's Harbinger Capital Management, is moving forward with plans to auction off its spectrum today—an auction likely to be won by Dish Network and its chairman, Charles Ergen. But it can also move forward with a lawsuit designed to ensure that Ergen doesn't see the more than $1 billion he'd be entitled to under that $2.2 billion deal, a judge has ruled.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Shelley Chapman rejected Dish and Ergen's motion to dismiss Harbinger's lawsuit, which claims that Ergen illegally bought up more than half of LightSquared's bank debt. That debt included a covenant barring competitors, such as Dish, from investing in it.

"What he is buying purportedly in a personal capacity is the very thing he's in the business of buying for Dish," LightSquared's lawyer, David Friedman, said.

LightSquared wants to bar Ergen from being paid anything from the bankruptcy auction.

Chapman, who in October dismissed Harbinger's lawsuit against Dish and Ergen, did throw out some of LightSquared's complaint. But the heart of the lawsuit remains.

Harbinger put LightSquared into bankruptcy last year after federal regulators barred it from using its spectrum to build a 4G wireless Internet network, citing interference concerns. The hedge fund has sought to exchange its spectrum for other spectrum owned by the federal government; it is unclear how today's auction would affect that plan.

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