West Virginia will join Massachusetts as the only states to continue the courtroom antitrust battle against Microsoft Corp., pressing a U.S. appeals court to reconsider tougher sanctions against the world’s largest software company.
In a Dec. 3 statement, West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw Jr. accused U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of siding with Microsoft by failing to impose adequate sanctions for the company’s illegal actions. He said the state shouldn’t let its financial situation affect its responsibilities.
“No reputable government should plead poverty and allow an adjudicated lawbreaker to retain [its] ill-gotten gains,” McGraw said.
Massachusetts had announced earlier that it also would not accept the landmark antitrust settlement reached by Microsoft and the Bush administration. Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly said he was “pleased and grateful” to have West Virginia’s support.
A pro-Microsoft group, the Washington-based Citizens Against Government Waste, quickly attacked West Virginia’s decision as improper given that state’s economic conditions. The group said the state faces a $200 million deficit and teachers have been warned they may not receive raises next year.
“The taxpayers of West Virginia have every right to question the attorney general’s priorities,” said the group’s president, Tom Schatz. “What is Darrell McGraw thinking by using scarce tax dollars to pursue costly litigation? This appeal is unrealistic, imprudent, and irrational.”
At issue is Microsoft’s practice of combining software code for its internet browser and other software with parts of its Windows operating system. Microsoft maintains the design is efficient, but it also makes it impossible for consumers to remove completely some unnecessary features of Windows.
A federal appeals court found the practice illegal, but Kollar-Kotelly refused to force Microsoft to separate its software code from Windows. She warned that such a proposal was not economically beneficial and would “disrupt the industry.”
Antitrust regulators in seven other statesCalifornia, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, and Utahsaid they have decided to focus on making sure Microsoft obeys the promises it made in the settlement. The states had pushed during hearings earlier this year for tougher penalties against Microsoft.
In response, Microsoft said it would pay $25 million in legal reimbursements to be divided among those seven states based on how much they spent on the antitrust case. But Microsoft indicated it could challenge any requests for lawyers’ reimbursements by West Virginia and Massachusetts.