COURTS Problem Missing

The Florida Times Union, July 4, 2000 | Go to article overview

COURTS Problem Missing


Government trustbusters appear to be rehashing an old case in the antitrust suit against Visa and MasterCard.

Discover brought a civil antitrust suit against Visa and MasterCard in 1990 and ultimately lost. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1994 said there was no consumer harm and Discover had its card in the market competing with Visa, MasterCard, American Express, etc.

Just as in the Microsoft case, the lack of consumer benefit and active involvement of a competitor with powerful political clout sparks suspicion.

Microsoft became a target after Netscape, a competitor in the Web browser market, complained about being beaten. Another competitor is Oracle. Its CEO, Larry Ellison, is worth an estimated $47 billion, but has made no secret of his envy of Microsoft chief Bill Gates, who is even wealthier and more successful.

However, Ellison said it was nothing personal.

"It just a great competition between Microsoft and Oracle. They are the No. 1 software company in the world and we want to be No. 1," he said.

Oracle stock has soared during the government's efforts to break up the company.

Oracle hired a detective agency last year to investigate the Independent Institute after it bought full-page newspaper ads defending Microsoft.

Rob Latham of the Independent Institute said the group never tried to hide its connections to Microsoft. It has criticized federal antitrust laws for more than a decade, and Microsoft has been involved with the institute only for two years.

The alleged spying also included a $1,200 offer to janitors to look at the trash of the Association for Competitive Technology, a trade group, for "evidence" against Microsoft. …

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