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MS-DoJ settlement edging closer?

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DoJ antitrust chief Joel Klein commented yesterday on the Microsoft trial that the "remedies ought to be commensurate" with Judge Jackson's findings of fact, which had revealed "a serious pattern of anti-competitive conduct". It was a neutral kind of statement, but since it is known that the DoJ has hired Greenhill & Co, a New York firm specialising in mergers and acquisitions, to advise it, the probability must be that the DoJ is looking at a full range of options for breaking up Microsoft. Klein was speaking at a Judiciary Committee subcommittee hearing on antitrust and merger activity, and was questioned by Senator Herbert Kohl (Democrat, Wisconsin). Bill Gates repeated a few days ago that Microsoft would not be broken up, but Gates is not now the chief executive officer of Microsoft. Klein made it clear that he and his department favoured a settlement over litigation, noting that "We're in the middle of the mediation process", and that he wasn't going to talk about what was going on. It has been suggested that if there is any progress reported to Judge Jackson, he might delay issuing his findings of law, which are expected next month. This could increase the pressure on Microsoft to agree to a settlement, in order to avoid the almost-certainly damaging findings of law being made public. Jackson saw both teams of lawyers earlier this week, in all probability in order to impress on them the urgency of the situation. It is also unlikely that Judge Posner would waste his time if he thought the mediation was stalled, so a settlement should not be ruled out at the moment. ®

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