WMU News

Microsoft antitrust ruling is a victory for the government

June 28, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- In the wake of today's U.S. Court of Appeals ruling reversing a lower court order that Microsoft Corp. be broken into two companies, a Western Michigan University professor warns that this decision is not the big Microsoft victory it initially appears to be.

"This is really a victory in defeat's clothing for the government," says antitrust expert Dr. Norman W. Hawker, an associate professor of finance and commercial law in WMU's Haworth College of Business.

Today's ruling vacated the remedies ordered by U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson just over one year ago. Although the Appeals Court ruled that Microsoft had indeed violated antitrust laws, it also found that Jackson had improperly conducted himself in the case by holding secret interviews with members of the media.

"Microsoft lost on two critical issues. First, the Court of Appeals held that Microsoft is a monopoly. Second, the court held that Microsoft violated antitrust law," says Hawker. "I believe Judge Jackson's original remedy was based on solid law. He used solid, straight-forward, mainstream antitrust legal principles.

"It is unfortunate, though, that he was so foolish as to talk to reporters before issuing his judgment on remedies. If not for Judge Jackson's inexplicable conduct, this decision would probably be considered a big win for the Department of Justice and the state attorneys general."

Hawker compares Jackson's conduct to that of former President Bill Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. "It's not nearly the same scale, but Judge Jackson's behavior is somewhat analogous to President Clinton's. He was a really talented guy, trying to do really important things, but he got caught up in behavior he should have known was inappropriate--and it ended up sullying his reputation and stymieing his efforts to do good."

Hawker, who has written numerous articles on antitrust law and the Microsoft case, is a former assistant attorney general for Michigan.

Media contact: Jessica English, 616 387-8400, jessica.english@wmich.edu

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