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Wall Street goes mad on imaginary MS settlement talks

Roadkill waiting to happen, these guys...

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the twitchy vulnerability of Wall Street was amply illustrated yesterday by what seems to have been an entirely spurious rumour that settlement talks between Microsoft and the DoJ were under way again. Microsoft stock promptly kicked up on double normal trading volume, but it seems the rumour was at best wishful thinking.

At the moment it's conceivable that some form of contact could take place between Microsoft and the government, but the chances of such contact actually leading to anything concrete are vanishingly small.

Microsoft wants the trial appeal handled by the 'slow train' appeals court, rather than having it go directly to the Supreme Court, and it currently stands a reasonable chance of getting at least half a loaf here.

Microsoft also doesn't want any of Judge Jackson's unpleasant remedies kicking in, but as the Good Judge has agreed to keep his whips and thumbscrews locked up until the shooting dies down, Microsoft is getting its way here too. So why on earth would it want to settle, unless it could secure the sort of amazingly lenient deal the government isn't going to offer it?

There's still plenty of scope for delays and - particularly if you count time in Internet years - Microsoft can go a long way with business as usual, still technically guilty, but conspicuously unremedied. If the legal process looks like springing the company from some of Jackson's nastier remedies, then it might start to get seriously interested in dealing, but at the moment there's not a lot of point. ®

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