- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 13, 2001

A top Justice Department lawyer defended the government's antitrust settlement with Microsoft yesterday, telling senators that the deal complies with previous court rulings and will restore competition put in jeopardy by the software company's illegal practices.
Justice antitrust chief Charles A. James faced skeptical senators in the abbreviated hearing and rebutted concerns that the proposed settlement is unenforceable and has too many loopholes.
"So much of what has been called loopholes are carve-outs necessary to facilitate pro-competitive behavior," Mr. James said.
The senators were due to hear from Microsoft lawyer Charles "Rick" Rule, as well as several Microsoft critics. But the hearing was cut short after two hours because of an unrelated procedural matter, and will be rescheduled.
Several senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said they doubted the settlement would promote competition in the industry.
They said they wanted to see an end to the case, but were not impressed by the settlement terms.
"Rather than closing the book on the case," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, "the proposed settlement only appears to be the end of the latest chapter."
Mr. Hatch cited a letter from former Netscape executive Jim Barksdale, who said that under the terms of the proposed settlement, Netscape, a Microsoft rival, would never have existed.
"If the [settlement] goes into effect, it will subject an entire industry to dominance by an unconstrained monopolist, thus snuffing out competition, consumer choice and innovation in perhaps our nation's most important industry," Mr. Barksdale wrote.
Netscape has since been bought by the company that is now AOL Time Warner. Mr. Barksdale remains an AOL board member.
The Bush administration settled with Microsoft to get immediate relief for consumers, officials said. The settlement requires that Microsoft allow consumers to remove some features in Windows and release some of the Windows blueprints to competitors so they can write compatible software.
In March, a federal judge is scheduled to decide whether the settlement is good for consumers.
Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, was the only senator among the five present who defended the company.
Mr. McConnell cited a poll that found Americans favor a settlement in the case.
Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, retorted that "the majority of people favor a settlement, but I don't think they favor any settlement, they favor a good settlement."
Two Microsoft competitors, software firms Red Hat and Liberate Technologies, sent several executives to testify before the Senate committee.
Red Hat chief Matthew Szulik, whose Linux-operating-system product was called a "cancer" by Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer.
Mr. Ballmer wrote that the settlement will do nothing to stop Microsoft's illegal practices.
"Biologists know that an unbalanced ecosystem, one dominated by a single species, is more vulnerable to collapse," Mr. Szulik wrote.
"I think we're seeing this today. Under the consent decree, it will continue and probably get worse," Mr. Szulik wrote.

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