According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft is on the verge of settling a raft of antitrust-related class action lawsuits that arose during its three year struggle against the federal government. Most of the lawsuits were based around Microsoft being found guilty of overcharging for its monopoly Windows products, which affected both new PC sales and retail Window sales. The proposed settlement is reportedly worth over $1 billion and sees Microsoft donating software and computers to over 14,000 of the poorest US schools over the next five years.
The unusual agreement, which was arrived at so that a monetary settlement wouldn't be swallowed by administrative and lawyers' fees, must be approved by US District Court Judge J. Federick Motz, who is overseeing the class-action lawsuits. Lawyers in the cases estimated that a financial agreement would have resulted in plaintiffs receiving less than $10 a piece. However, some lawyers would still like to take Microsoft to court in hopes of receiving higher damages. Motz will begin hearings next week to determine how to continue.
In related news, Utah's attorney general is coming under criticism for his last minute decision to reject the Microsoft settlement. Attorney General Mark Shurtleff declined to join the states agreeing to settle with Microsoft just 10 minutes before the November 6 deadline, after listening to impassioned pleas from Microsoft's partners and competitors. It's a decision he may regret: Shurtleff is now facing competition for his job from more conservative elements of the Republican party, which have labeled him a RINO (Republican In Name Only). But Shurtleff says he was simply defending the law.
"The courts have unanimously found that Microsoft violated antitrust laws," he wrote in an email message to his supporters recently. "It would have been very inappropriate for me, as the chief legal officer of Utah and sworn to uphold the law, to just walk away from the litigation."