This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Industry Standard's Media Grok email newsletter. It is archived here for informational purposes only because The Standard's site is no more. This material is Copyright 1999-2001 by Standard Media.

Microsoft Stock Pops, Speculation Rages
Mar 24 2000 12:00 AM PST

Told you you'd get tired of hearing about the Microsoft (MSFT) case.

Microsoft's stock jumped 8 percent yesterday on Wednesday's news of energy in the settlement talks, hauling the Dow Jones into higher territory.

Most outlets agreed that the settlement talks now center around "behavioral" limits, rather than a breakup. An exception was ZDNet's reporter Anne Knowles, who focused on the DoJ's insistence that court-ordered remedies not be a mere slap on the wrist. Knowles harked back to the 1994 consent decree, which, one could argue, failed even to crimp Microsoft's style.

The Washington Post's James Grimaldi chatted up the National Association of Attorneys General in Washington and found - surprise - dissension. Officials from four states - out of the 19 that are pursuing the antitrust case - overtly favored remedies milder than a breakup. Grimaldi reported that Microsoft intends to have a new settlement proposal on the table as soon as Monday.

Wall Street Journal scribe Marcelo Prince quoted a J.P. Morgan Securities analyst on one reason the DoJ needs a settlement: a "negative guilty ruling will certainly mean a multiyear appeal, and most of them will have new jobs thanks to the election." But the Seattle Times (dossier)' man in Washington got Georgetown Law antitrust expert William Kovacic talking about why the DoJ would have a hard time accepting a settlement. "The government's going to have to stand in front of a press conference and tell the world that it has surrendered this seemingly overwhelming litigation advantage in return for satisfactory terms," Kovacic said. "It's got to be able to make that claim without people snickering."

Maybe the audience won't care. USA Today ran a Bloomberg story about a poll concluding that Americans consider the antitrust trial a waste of public funds. Eighty percent of the respondents favor a settlement; only 17 percent want Microsoft broken up. - Keith Dawson

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