Judge Threatens Microsoft, Private Plaintiffs With Ruling

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2002-01-03 Print this article Print

Frederick Motz, the judge overseeing the private antitrust cases against Microsoft, says he will rule next Thursday on whether or not to accept the proposed preliminary settlement unless there is significant progress in their mediation efforts.

The judge overseeing the private antitrust cases against Microsoft Corp. has told the parties he will rule next Thursday on whether or not to accept the proposed preliminary settlement unless there is significant progress in the mediation efforts currently under way. Steve Benz, a partner at law firm Kellog, Huber, Hansen, Todd & Evans, in Washington, D.C., and co-counsel for the California plaintiffs, told eWEEK that Maryland Federal District Judge J. Frederick Motz has informed the parties that he will rule on the preliminary settlement on Jan. 10 unless there is progress in the mediation efforts.
While also confirming that mediation efforts are continuing between Microsoft and lawyers for the plaintiffs to try to iron out a settlement for the more than 100 private antitrust cases against the Redmond, Wash., software company, Benz declined to elaborate further due to the confidentiality order in place.
The parties formally met on Dec. 18 with mediator Ken Feinberg -- without any resolution -- with Feinberg at the time asking them to keep the window of mediation open. Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler also confirmed today that the process remains open and mediation attempts continue. "There is open dialogue between us, but I cant disclose any specifics regarding that as a result of the confidentiality order," Desler said. The private antitrust cases were brought against Microsoft last year following the ruling by U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson that the company had violated two sections of the Sherman Antitrust Act. While a proposed settlement is already on the table and parties have already argued its merits before Motz, some California class-action lawyers have opposed the deal and have asked the judge to strike down the settlement or allow their lawsuits to proceed separately in California. They, and other parties like Apple Computer Inc., feel the settlement negotiated by Microsoft and the other class-action lawyers is a ploy designed to entrench the Windows monopoly while allowing the company to pay back only a fraction of what it actually owes consumers. Motz has himself expressed concern about the deal, which would give the nations poorest schools computers and software estimated at $1 billion. He is worried about including California in the proposed settlement and thus ordered the parties to meet with the mediator to hammer out more acceptable terms for all.
Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at www.eweek.com.


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