Microsoft adversaries fear out-of-court antitrust settlement

The prospect of a breakup of Microsoft receded further this week, as state officials in the US voiced suspicions that the Bush...

The prospect of a breakup of Microsoft receded further this week, as state officials in the US voiced suspicions that the Bush administration wants to settle out of court.

Chris Mugan

At their first meeting since the appeals court heard oral arguments last month, the state attorney generals that were instrumental in taking Microsoft to court said they were determined to pursue the company.

But Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal said there were “very disconcerting rumours” the US Justice department would aim for a settlement if appeal judges voted against the government.

Most of the seven judges on the appeals panel were deeply critical of the government’s case. If their original victory was eroded, the prosecutors would have to decide whether to appeal, settle with Microsoft or pursue a narrower case back in the trial courts.

Experts have speculated that any setback would lead the government to reopen settlement talks, causing a split between the federal Justice department and the 19 states that have been jointly fighting the case. They states are aware of President Bush’s scepticism about the case prior to taking office, and that of his nominee for the Justice department’s antitrust division Charles James.

The appeals court panel could issue its decision as early as late April or early May.

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