Gates to pay stock-trading fine

Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates has agreed to pay a $800,000 civil penalty to settle charges that he...

Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates has agreed to pay a $800,000 civil penalty to settle charges that he violated stock-buying requirements in 2002.

Gates, through his personal investment company, acquired more than $50m of the voting securities of pharmaceutical company ICOS without complying with antitrust notification requirements, according to the US Department of Justice. The DOJ's Antitrust Division, at the request of the US Federal Trade Commission, filed a civil suit against Gates for violating the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act of 1976. The DOJ also filed a proposed settlement, that must be approved by the court.

The DOJ case is not related to Gates' position in Microsoft or the DOJ's antitrust litigation with the company.

Cascade Investment issued a statement saying Gates was not personally involved in the stock acquisition.

"The settlement reached today involves the exercise of a stock option that was nearing expiration," said Mark Beatty, general counsel of Cascade Investment. "We missed a filing but voluntarily notified the FTC of our mistake upon our own discovery of this. At no time was Mr Gates personally involved in these matters.

 "Since that time, we have co-operated fully with the FTC and will continue to do so as requested.  In addition, a series of procedures has been implemented to avoid this type of oversight in the future," he added.

The Hart-Scott-Rodino Act of 1976 imposes notification and waiting period requirements on individuals and companies over a certain size before they can finish acquisitions of stock or assets valued at more than $50m. A trader is subject to a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 a day for each day in violation.  The DOJ complaint alleged that Gates was in violation of the act from 9 May to 26 August 2002.

Grant Gross writes for IDG News Service

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