Microsoft not quitting antitrust fight

Microsoft Corp. may be talking settlement, but that doesn't mean it has thrown in the antitrust towel.

On Tuesday, in fact, while the software giant sat down with prosecutors in an attempt to negotiate an end to its antitrust trial, Microsoft also stepped up its efforts to obtain access to more information pertaining to the America Online Inc.-Netscape Communications Corp.-Sun Microsystems Inc. partnership.

Microsoft served Sun with a subpoena, requesting Sun name an officer or manager "most knowledgeable" about the AOL-Netscape-Sun deal who will be deposed by Microsoft the week of April 12. That individual, whom Sun has yet to name, will be expected to answer questions on the deal and related communications and evidence, according to Sun.

A Microsoft spokesperson said the company "is not discussing anything to do with settlement talks." The one-day settlement talks among Microsoft, the U.S. Department of Justice and representatives from the 19 state attorneys general halted Tuesday evening, with no official word on when or if they will resume.

Microsoft's subpoenaing of Sun followed by a day Microsoft's filing of an emergency motion to compel the production of all of the e-mail messages relating to AOL's purchase of Netscape and the subsequent technology-exchange deal with Sun.

In its filing, Microsoft claimed that the three vendors have produced only a fraction -- three boxes, to be precise -- of the documents to Microsoft, compared to the 120 boxes' worth they had supplied the Department of Justice, which was reviewing the pending AOL-Netscape merger as part of the standard Hart-Scott-Rodino Act merger approval process. "AOL, Netscape and Sun should not be allowed to play 'hide the ball' at Microsoft's -- and, ultimately, the Court's -- expense," read the Microsoft motion.

According to Microsoft's motion, the company has sent several letters in the past couple of weeks to the three vendors, seeking the delivery of the additional documents and e-mail in question.

Sun is denying it is withholding any pertinent information.

"When we received the first subpoena, we did a very thorough job reviewing the documents [electronic and paper] that we have on the deal, and did a complete production to Microsoft," said corporate spokeswoman Lisa Poulson. "After being informed of Microsoft's new motion, we double-checked our production and all of the appropriate sources. We believe we have already provided all of the relevant documents to Microsoft."

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson granted Microsoft's request at the end of last year to seek information relating to the AOL-Netscape-Sun deal, as it could have a bearing on the antitrust trial. The judge issued a court order in January requiring the DoJ's antitrust division to provide Microsoft with a number of documents pertinent to the then-pending AOL-Netscape merger.

Judge Jackson granted Microsoft's request to depose one witness each from AOL, Netscape and Sun late last week, but denied Microsoft's request to question seven witnesses total from the three companies, as well as the investment bankers who handled the deal, according to The Seattle Times. The Times said Jackson informed attorneys representing the involved companies of his decision during a conference call.

AOL CEO Steve Case will also be deposed by Microsoft the week of April 12, the story added. AOL was not available for comment at press time.

Take me to the DoJ/Microsoft page.


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