Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Antitrust News: Yet another Microsoft settlement

This from the AP:

Microsoft Corp. said Monday it has reached a settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought by Minnesota customers who claimed the software giant overcharged them in violation of state antitrust laws.

The world's biggest software company said final terms of the settlement were still being worked out. The deal will be presented to the state court in early summer, company spokeswoman Stacy Drake said. She declined to say whether the settlement would affect Microsoft's earnings.

A message on a trial information line said the settlement would be presented in early July.

The settlement interrupted a jury trial that was expected to last several more weeks. Attorneys for the plaintiffs had said they were seeking as much as $505 million.

The suit alleged that Microsoft had violated Minnesota antitrust law by overcharging for its Windows operating system and its Excel and Word programs. The company had denied the overcharges, saying the prices on its products had dropped.

Microsoft had previously settled with nine states and Washington, D.C., paying out a total of $1.5 billion. Cases in 16 other states were dismissed.
I often hear from businessmen that they have a fiduciary responsibility to take the path of least resistance on antitrust, and settle antitrust suits as quickly as possible. In the short term, that may make sense. Long term, all that strategy does is grant others the right to loot them left and right without consequence. After all, will Microsoft's $1.5 billion in payouts placate or embolden those who would use antitrust against it?

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