Gates and Co.: 'An astonishing lack of recall' But Microsoft officials say they're cooperating

Computers

September 02, 1998|By SEATTLE TIMES

WASHINGTON -- Chairman Bill Gates and other Microsoft Corp. executives have claimed "an astonishing lack of recall" about pivotal business decisions when questioned by government attorneys, state and federal antitrust prosecutors alleged in a court document made public yesterday.

"Bill Gates, who is placed at the center of key events by numerous documents, displayed a particular failure of recollection at his deposition," the prosecutors said.

Microsoft officials have been cooperative, provided millions of pages of records and e-mail and answered every question "to the best of our ability," spokesman Jim Cullinan said. "It is unfortunate that the government has lost faith in the substance of its case and is resorting in this kind of name calling."

Attorneys for the U.S. Department of Justice and 20 states, which have filed a broad antitrust suit against Microsoft, also alleged that Microsoft dealt an illegal and unfair blow to competitor Net- scape Communications Corp. in steps taken -- as recently as February -- to keep Netscape's Internet browser off computers made by Apple Computer Inc.

The suit cites three dates -- Aug. 21, 1997, and Jan. 22 and Feb. 13 of this year -- during which Microsoft allegedly did something to persuade or prevent Apple from loading Netscape's browser on its computers. What it did is not clear, because details were blacked out on court documents at the demand of Microsoft, which doesn't want "trade secrets" to become public.

The government attorneys argued that the court should reject Microsoft's plea to dismiss the antitrust case, and they offered fresh examples of allegedly monopolistic and predatory behavior toward chip maker Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., computer maker Apple, of Cupertino, Calif., and Seattle-based RealNetworks Inc. The document was filed late Monday and made public yesterday.

"Microsoft's monopoly power is illustrated by its ability to secure agreements from competitors and potential competitors, including companies as powerful as Intel, to reduce or eliminate their competition with Microsoft," the government attorneys said.

Word of Gates' alleged forgetfulness comes as the Microsoft chairman and co-founder prepares for a third day of questioning today. The government cited eight documents that contradicted answers of Gates during his two-day deposition last week on Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., campus.

During depositions, government attorneys showed documents to Microsoft officials.

"Executives who are stated to be the authors of documents claim not to remember writing them," the government said. "Executives who are the stated recipients of documents claim not to remember receiving them. And both authors and recipients claim not to know what the documents mean."

The government said the posture has been part of a corporate pattern since the antitrust investigation began.

Pub Date: 9/02/98

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