If you've got the sentimental idea that this is because Time doesn't like the idea of Cooper going to jail, think again: the Wall Street Journal suggests that this decision is in fact fall-out from mass media consolidation and the financial leverage the government can therefore bring to bear against news agencies:
Time Warner's precise worries about continuing to defy the subpoenas weren't clear, but the company deals frequently with the federal government and may want to avoid a standoff that could involve possible criminal prosecution, such as obstruction of justice. Another concern: other Time Warner employees who might have seen the documents the government seeks could themselves face subpoenas.
Time Warner depends on government approval for a number of matters. It is, for example, awaiting antitrust approval for its acquisition -- with Comcast Corp. -- of Adelphia Communications' cable assets. It depends on the government's largesse to issue securities. And though it is a cable operator and holds no broadcast licenses from the Federal Communications Commission, the company is vulnerable to FCC pressures on issues of media content.
One other potential issue is a deferred-prosecution agreement struck last year between the Justice Department and Time Warner relating to America Online. A deferred prosecution contemplates cooperating with the government in its ongoing investigation into specific wrongdoing, in this case alleged accounting fraud.
"Time Warner has got to be inclined to be as cooperative with the government as they can on all fronts," says Washington attorney Hank Asbill, who is representing a former America Online executive charged with securities fraud.