Microsoft lawyers met for two hours Tuesday with representatives of the Justice Department and 19 states in an apparently uphill effort to settle the company’s landmark antitrust case. All sides are due in court today before District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson to discuss when the company’s antitrust trial would resume.
The government has alleged that Microsoft Corp. holds monopoly power in the market for personal computer operating systems and has abused that power in order to preserve its influence and extend it to other businesses. After 62 trial days, Jackson has heard 24 witnesses. All that remains is for him to hear another six rebuttal witnesses, which experts say will take a month or so.
Microsoft general counsel Bill Neukom, Sullivan & Cromwell lawyer Richard Urowsky and another lawyer, Rick Rule, drove into the Justice Department courtyard shortly before 5 p.m. EST and left about two hours later, without talking to reporters.
A prominent antitrust lawyer doubted that Tuesday’s talks would produce anything unless the Justice Department tells Microsoft exactly what it is looking for.
“One reason I would suspect this will go nowhere is that Microsoft is shadow-boxing,” said Malcolm Pfunder of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Washington. “They don’t really know until the Department of Justice tips its hand, at least privately, what kind of a deal they need to beat.”