Facing Jurors, Microsoft Voices a Rare Mea Culpa

Times Staff Writer

Until Wednesday, working for Microsoft Corp. meant never having to say you’re sorry.

Despite settling antitrust lawsuits with the Justice Department, corporate rivals, more than a dozen states and millions of consumers, the company’s representatives have never apologized for its rapacious behavior.

That streak ended in Minneapolis, when a Microsoft attorney conceded to a jury that the company had been overly aggressive in defending its turf.

“Yes, we acknowledge that and we apologize for it,” lawyer David Tulchin said. Though he insisted that no laws were broken, he acknowledged that “the conduct involved competition that went over the line.”


In 2001, when the software colossus reached a tentative settlement with federal officials over the abuse of its monopoly power, Chairman Bill Gates made no such apology. He said Microsoft agreed to the deal “because the government felt there were some concerns.”

Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw declined to discuss whether Tulchin’s admission constituted a change in company policy: Tulchin “said what he said, and I don’t think anybody’s disagreeing with that.”

It may be relevant that the Minnesota case, in which customers claim they were overcharged because of Microsoft’s practices, is the first big antitrust trial the company has had to defend in front of jurors.

“You want to appear humble and lovable to a jury,” said Silicon Valley lawyer Gary Reback, who helped persuade the federal government to sue Microsoft.

“Humble and lovable is not in Microsoft’s nature, so apparently they found a lawyer that could play that role for them.”