The U.S. Justice Department denied charges by three United States senators that it had divulged confidential information to foreign governments or encouraged them to take or threaten legal action against Microsoft.
In a statement made Wednesday afternoon, the department called the charges "completely false" and described the division's contacts with foreign government officials regarding Microsoft as "extremely limited."
But the DoJ acknowledged that "in a very small number of occasions" it had been contacted by foreign governments asking about its long-running investigation into the software giant. The Justice Department also said the matter arose during the course of regular discussions with its overseas counterparts. "In each instance, Division personnel maintained the confidentiality of the Division's investigations," according to the statement. "In no instance did the Division encourage a foreign government to initiate or threaten to initiate legal proceedings."
However on Tuesday, the DoJ came under withering criticism from Senators Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Spencer Abraham of Michigan and John Kyl of Arizona, who accused the Justice Department of encouraging foreign governments to pursue their own antitrust investigations of Microsoft. In a six-page letter, the senators complaints described a series of meetings between officials from the DoJ and foreign governments in connection with the Microsoft case. "Whatever the merits of the Department's various attacks on Microsoft, we hope that you will agree that it is an inappropriate use of U.S. taxpayer dollars to encourage - either purposefully or inadvertently - foreign governments to use their laws in a way that unfairly impairs the export opportunities of U.S. exporters," the senators said in the letter.
A spokesman for Microsoft welcomed the letter. "We're grateful that these senators are raising these kinds of questions," said the spokesman, Mark Murray. "We think it's unfortunate that a government agency would try to enlist foreign governments in attacking a successful U.S. company.