Feds, States Could Offer Different MS Remedies

WASHINGTON (04/12/2000) - Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson may get more than one remedy proposal from the U.S. government because of disagreements between the states and federal officials over a remedy in the Microsoft Corp. antitrust case.

That's according to Joel Klein, the U.S. assistant attorney general, who today offered the U.S. House Judiciary Committee scant insight into the issues surrounding the remedy dispute. Klein told the committee that the view of the U.S. states on potential remedies "are not always identical to ours."

While the government is hoping to submit a single remedy proposal to Jackson by the court-ordered April 28 deadline, Klein said the states could produce an independent proposal. "One can't guarantee an outcome," said Klein.

Jackson last week ruled that Microsoft violated antitrust laws with anticompetitive and predatory tactics. He is now considering what remedies to impose and will hold a hearing May 24 on this issue. Jackson has said he wants the U.S. government's remedy proposal, and Microsoft's response, before that hearing.

While Klein defended the government's court action against Microsoft before the committee, its chairman, Representative Henry Hyde (Republican, Illinois), urged fellow members to let the judicial system do its job.

"Everyone would benefit from a toning down of the rhetoric and a greater faith in the court system to come to the right resolution," said Hyde.

Hyde also said that antitrust laws, which were written more than a century ago, continue to apply today.

"The fundamentals of economics and human behavior have not changed since the 1890s, and that antitrust (law) remains a viable tool and a strong bulwark against government regulation of the new economy," said Hyde.

Today's hearing was intended to examine antitrust law enforcement by federal agencies. Hyde said it had been scheduled since last January, but the Microsoft case dominated much of the discussion.

John Conyers (Democrat, Michigan) took a swipe at fellow politicians who use the Microsoft case "as a fund-raising cash cow, or attempt to intimidate the department's law-enforcement efforts."

Representative George Gekas (Republican, Florida) questioned the motivations behind the government lawsuit, and said he had received few complaints from consumers about Microsoft. "What was the impulse" that brought the lawsuit, he asked. "Was it the competition that couldn't compete with Microsoft?"

"Ours is a very fact-based analysis, and the proof of that is we had to take it to court," said Klein, who added that the court heard 78 days of testimony before issuing its findings.