MS talks begin, but settlement seen as unlikely

Despite starting talks last week aimed at settling the Microsoft antitrust case, the US Department of Justice is pressing ahead to devise potential fixes for the vendor's alleged wrongs.

The Justice Department hired Greenhill and Co., a New York investment firm, to advise it on remedies, the department confirmed.

Neither Microsoft nor the Justice Department would comment last week about the start of settlement talks here, mediated by court-appointed referee Judge Richard Posner.

The parties met at the urging of the judge overseeing the government's case against Microsoft. Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson said several times during the trial that he would like to see the case settled, but the vendor and the government haven't been able to come to terms yet.

Some observers doubt a settlement will happen, despite statements from both sides that they would like to settle. "What people say in public and private may be two different things, but I don't think they will come together," said Yee Wah Chin, an antitrust lawyer at Squadron, Ellenoff, Plesent & Sheinfeld LLP in New York.

Class action suits continue

Meanwhile, federal antitrust lawsuits against Microsoft continue to sprout. Consumers, hopeful for class action status, recently filed cases in Florida, Illinois, Ohio and Washington D.C. They joined similar suits in Alabama, Louisiana and New York. All claim Microsoft has routinely overcharged consumers. A Microsoft spokesman called the suits "groundless."

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