'Findings of Fact' in Microsoft trial to be released today
November 5, 1999
By Marc Ferranti
The computer industry and legal and financial analysts observing the U.S. government's antitrust case against Microsoft Corp. are bracing for U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's findings of fact in the case, which will be released Friday.
Jackson said on Oct. 19 that he would release his findings on "a Friday," at 6:30 p.m. EST, after financial markets close. The parties in the case will be notified two hours earlier. Trial observers speculated that the judge -- who is apparently sensitive to the impact of his ruling on the stock market -- did not issue his preliminary findings last week because Microsoft was due to be included as part of the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Nov. 1.
The findings are the first part of a two-part ruling. In the factual findings, the judge will set out what the facts of the case are, and then, most likely early next year, he will issue a legal ruling on Microsoft's possible guilt. The U.S. Department of Justice and the 19 U.S. states that have joined the case are accusing Microsoft of illegally using a monopoly in the PC operating system market to crush competition and gain a foothold in other markets. Microsoft has vehemently denied the charges, and says that competition in the computer industry is thriving.
The findings of fact are expected to provide a window into the judge's thinking on his final legal ruling on whether Microsoft is guilty of the charges, according to trial observers. For example, one issue expected to be addressed in the findings is whether or not Microsoft has a monopoly in PC operating systems, according to Hillard Sterling, an attorney with Gordon & Glickson LLC in Chicago. Microsoft has argued that it does not, since, among other things, in the highly competitive, fast-paced IT industry, the software vendor does not have the control over pricing that is associated with monopolies.
However, if Judge Jackson does find that Microsoft has a monopoly in PC operating system market, the chances are higher that he will find the company guilty of illegal, anticompetitive behavior, observers say. This is because monopolies are held to a higher standard of competitive behavior than non-monopolies.
The lawsuit went to trial Oct. 19 last year. Testimony ended in June this year after 76 days of trial. After the findings of fact, Judge Jackson will hear the two sides make arguments on a legal ruling. If he decides against Microsoft, the judge will also have to rule on remedies.
What if Microsoft loses the antitrust case?
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