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Senators Criticize Microsoft Antitrust Settlement

Several U.S. Senators criticized the proposed settlement between Microsoft and the federal government that would end the Department of Justice antitrust action against Microsoft.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the proposed settlement Wednesday. The Senate has no authority over the proposed settlement. A federal judge must decide whether to accept the agreement. Meanwhile, nine states and the District of Columbia did not accept the settlement agreement and continue to pursue the case.

"I find many of the terms of the settlement to be either confusingly vague, subject to manipulation or both," the committee chairman and Vermont Democrat, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, said. "I want an end to this thing, but an end to it where we know what the rules are going to be."

Republicans also had negative things to say about the settlement. Ranking Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah said he is undecided about the settlement, but he used some of his time in the hearing to quote from a letter written by Jim Barksdale, formerly of Netscape.

Assistant Attorney General Chares James told the Senate committee that the agreement does provide for tough relief against anti-competitive behavior, and Microsoft lawyer Charles Rule submitted written testimony that the settlement was one of the toughest conduct decrees ever.

Stanford professor Lawrence Lessig, who played a role in the trial, said tougher enforcement provisions were needed.

Also, Wednesday, Microsoft filed a response to the non-settling states new proposal to end the case.

Microsoft alleged in the legal filing that the non-settling states seek "to advance the commercial interests of powerful corporate constituents ... such as Sun Microsystems, Oracle, Apple and Palm."

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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