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Oops! Court posted MS verdict almost two hours early

If we don't tell them where it is, they won't read it...

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So how's the SEC going to deal with this one? Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly's ruling in the Microsoft case was officially posted at 4.30pm US Eastern time on Friday, but the files were actually made available by the court from 2.40pm, thus allowing anyone in the know to benefit from almost two hours of well-informed stock trading, and to have the decision before Microsoft's lawyers had even been given it.

And the perpetrators of this howler were? The court's web morlocks, it would appear. The first sighting of the decision's publication seems to have been at Slashdot, timed at 3.33pm. Slashdot had been sent the links by a reader, but it's not immediately apparent from the discussion thread that the site had got the information a full hour before it was supposed to be available, and that it's readers realised this.

Nevertheless, the notion of Slashdot readers, of all people, filling their boots with MS shares at bargain prices, prior to offloading them for a whacking profit first thing Monday, is particularly choice.

Ted Bridis of AP however makes the fateful connection, and chases it up. Bracing themselves for what would undoubtedly be heavy traffic, the court's site technicians probably uploaded the documents early in order to be sure everything was working properly, but – doh – just assumed that because they hadn't told anybody they were there yet, and how to get to them, that nobody would read them.

Bridis says that logs for the court's systems show this happened at 2.40pm. He notes that $90 million worth of Microsoft shares changed hands in the final five minutes of trading on Friday.

There's one further oddity to the incident. When they were made public, the documents' URLs were of the form:
http://www.dcd.uscourts.gov/FinalDecree.pdf

and that's how they remain. However, the leaked links took the form: http://www.dcd.uscourts.gov/Opinions/2002/Kotelly/FinalDecree.pdf

These links are still live, and the one above was actually the one we used when we published our first story on the decision on Friday night. Where did we get it? No, nobody leaked it to us before the bell, we were hanging around at 4.30pm Eastern waiting for something to happen like everybody else, but as everything seemed to be going pretty slow we went over to microsoft.com and checked out the trial news section.

Microsoft now has its own 'localised' versions of the documents up, but when the verdict was initially released it just published a link to the document hosted by the DC court. And it was the second of the URLs above, not the first – i.e., it was the leaked version. They could have got it from Slashdot, we suppose... ®

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