Ruling Warrants Far-Reaching Remedies Against Microsoft

By Rob O'Regan  |  Posted 1999-11-05

State attorneys general Friday were quick to applaud Judge Thomas Penfield Jacksons findings of fact in the antitrust case against Microsoft Corp., saying the ruling justifies "far-reaching remedies" against the software giant.

In a conference call, attorneys general from Iowa, New York, Connecticut, Illinois and California said Jacksons ruling will benefit consumers and foster innovation that Microsoft has stifled through abuse of its monopoly power.

"Recognizing the nature of the harm imposed by Microsoft goes way beyond harm to consumers and into innovation," said Eliot Spitzer, attorney general from New York, one of the 19 states that joined the Justice Department in its suit against Microsoft.

Jacksons ruling, the AGs contend, lays the groundwork for harsh penalties against Microsoft.

"This opens a window on a world that consumers rarely, if ever, see, of Microsoft in effect telling potential competitors they could not bring innovations to market," said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. "That is the kind of abuse that will underlie the far-reaching remedies we think are appropriate."

Pace picks up now

The attorneys general would not discuss which remedies they would seek, nor would they comment on the possibility of an out-of-court settlement.

"I dont think any of us want to prejudge what the judge may decide in the remedy stage," said Tom Miller, attorney general from Iowa. "We respect his discretion and his responsibility."

They did say they expect the case to proceed quickly from this point. The governments "proposed conclusions of law" are due Dec. 6, Microsofts proposed conclusions of law are due Jan 17, followed by the governments reply on Jan. 24 and Microsofts reply on Jan. 31.

"The judge is on a strict timetable," said Blumenthal. "Hes more aware than any of us of the effect of time on [Microsofts] continuing practice of abuse."

Court brief read like a novel

The AGs were downright giddy commenting on the overwhelming evidence against Microsoft cited in Jacksons findings, with Blumenthal saying the court brief read "like a novel."

"It was more than just tying of the browser to the operating system. There were a complex web of contract restrictions, systems of reward and punishment, threats of economic sanctions," he said. "Those kinds of abuses give this set of findings an energy and power that ordinarily simply isnt found in a legal document. It presents this picture of a powerful predator abusing its market dominance. "

The attorneys also said that Jacksons findings validated their decision to bring the antitrust charges against Microsoft, over the protestations of some.

"Doubts were expressed in some of our states about wisdom and appropriateness of this action a year ago," said Blumenthal. "This set of findings soundly validates decisions that 19 AGs and the DOJ made as law enforcement officials."

Lastly, the attorneys see Jacksons ruling as opening the door for more innovation in the high-tech industry.

"The judges finding potentially unleashes a powerful engine of innovation," said Bill Lockyer, the California attorney general. "One of the tragedies of the last few years is that Netscape, arguably the most innovative company on the planet, was basically crushed by the actions of Microsoft.

"That cant be undone, but there ought to be efforts made to make sure that it cant repeat itself."

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