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FTC lets Intel off the hook

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The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) quietly let Intel depart its records last Friday after a 60-day public consultation period expired. But the decision means that Intel's affairs will still come under scrutiny, if necessary. The commissioners voted to approve the consent order 3:1, with Orson Swindle the sole dissenter in the case of Docket 9228. However, the consent decree is now binding on Intel, meaning Chipzilla has to be nice and not prevent its customers from having access to technology that might damage their businesses. Swindle said: "I am unable to vote in favor of the consent order because I continue to lack reason to believe that Intel's actions against Digital, Intergraph, and Compaq would have adversely affected competition and innovation in the ways charged in the complaint. "Accordingly, because I still lack reason to believe that Intel's alleged conduct constituted a violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, I dissent." Get that right. Swindle dissented because he thought there was no case against Intel in the first place. The other three commissioners said they voted for the consent order because they continue to believe "...that Intel, which the majority has reason to believe is a monopolist, engaged in 'conduct, other than competition on the merits or restraints reasonably 'necessary' to competition on the merits, that reasonably appear[s] capable of making a significant contribution to creating or maintaining monopoly power.' Barry Wright Corp. v. ITT Grinnell Corp., 724 F.2d 227, 230 (1st Cir. 1983) (Breyer, J.) (quoting III P. Areeda & D. Turner, Antitrust Law 626 at 83 (1978)). Nothing in the public comments submitted to the Commission leads us to depart from our initial judgment. "Second, requiring 'demonstrable' harm to competition after pretrial settlement has no legal basis because it has no practical basis. Settlement of the case necessarily prevents us from making any final judgment about the actual evidence of harm to competition from Intel's conduct." So the feds are still watching Mighty Chipzilla. ®

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