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States vow confidentiality in airline merger study

DALLAS (AP) -- The attorney general of Texas and counterparts in other states may have been reviewing the proposed American Airlines-US Airways merger far longer than previously known.

Published reports last week disclosed that the chief law officials in about 19 states had joined the U.S. Department of Justice's review of the merger.

An agreement in which the states won access to confidential information from the airlines was dated March 19, barely a month after the merger announcement. State officials can get the companies' confidential information from the Justice Department by agreeing not to release it to anyone else.

A copy of the agreement was obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press under an open-records request.

It is common for states to join a federal merger review in order to look out for parochial interests, which in this case could include preserving hub airports and routes currently operated by American and US Airways. Companies use confidentiality agreements with regulators to protect inside information that they don't want competitors to see.

While the Justice Department continues its review, US Airways Group Inc. shareholders are scheduled to vote on the merger Friday. The merger is part of American Airlines parent AMR Corp.'s bankruptcy-reorganization plan, which a federal judge is scheduled to review on Aug. 15. The companies expect to close the deal by the end of September.