Justice Department, Microsoft want rubber stamp, not public participation
Washington, DC – The court overseeing the proposed Microsoft antitrust settlement must hear directly from outside parties before it approves the deal, the Computer & Communications Industry Association said in a filing to Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly today.
“More than 15,000 people told the Justice Department they did not like this settlement. There were at least 45 ‘major’ comments, some of which were 100 pages or more,” CCIA President Ed Black said. “But the DOJ and Microsoft say they alone should argue the deal’s strengths and weaknesses in court. How can they when they’re on the same side? Neither can represent public opposition to a deal so riddled with loopholes.”
The Tunney Act requires that the public have a chance to comment on any antitrust settlement between the Justice Department and a defendant. The anti-corruption statute was a response to the Nixon Administration’s antitrust settlement with ITT, which was improperly influenced by close financial and political ties to the company.
The CCIA also asked the court to hear evidence regarding Microsoft’s failure to disclose fully the details of discussions between the company and the Administration, Congress and government agencies. Former Sen. John Tunney — author of the Tunney Act — recently said in an affidavit that Microsoft’s circumscribed accounting of their meetings also violated the Act that carries his name.
“The disclosure provisions were designed to help insure that no defendant can ever achieve through political activities what it cannot obtain through the legal process,” Tunney said. “Failure to comply with these provisions raises an inference, or at minimum, an appearance of impropriety.”
Microsoft and the Justice Department have also told the judge that she should take no more than a week to review the thousands of pages of “major” settlement comments, in addition to the thousands of shorter messages received during the comment period.
The CCIA urged Kollar-Kotelly not to short change the comment process.
“Five to nine days is insufficient for the Court to review even the 45 major comments that analyze ‘significant issues relating to the (settlement),’” CCIA told the Judge in its filing. “The court should afford itself an appropriate period to give the (public’s) comments a degree of scrutiny commensurate with the importance of the case.”