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"I hate those damn things. Always did. I was never very good at them" -- George H.W. Bush, after watching George W. Bush in a televised Presidential campaign debateEdited by Robert McNattReturn to top

Bashing Microsoft (Whatever That Is)

For plaintiffs' attorneys, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's 150-page "Finding of Fact" in the Microsoft antitrust case has been a veritable treasure map. Released on Nov. 5, the document describes everything Microsoft did wrong and lists specific evidence supporting each and every government allegation against the software giant. Jackson even throws in a few incendiary quotes about how the company's practices have hurt consumers. Scan the ruling into a word processor, add some legal boilerplate, and presto: instant class action.

Some of those Microsoft-bashing lawyers might do well, however, to check their briefs a bit more closely. More than 80 class actions have been filed against the company since November, and new ones arrive almost daily. But in spite of having their entire case laid out before them by a federal judge, some of the plaintiffs' lawyers have managed to get a few basic facts wrong.

One of the new suits, filed just three business days after Judge Jackson released his findings, identifies Microsoft as a company "with its principal place of business located within the state of Texas." No doubt that will come as a surprise to the 18,000 employees who work at the software maker's headquarters in Redmond, Wash., just outside of Seattle.

Another one of the class actions soberly refers to Microsoft as a supplier of "generic drugs." The filing then proceeds to define "API"--one of the many technical acronyms that are being bandied about in the case--as an "active pharmaceutical ingredient."

Microsoft is brandishing these errors as proof that the new class actions are bogus. But even if some of the attorneys involved don't know exactly where Bill Gates works, their suits can't be summarily dismissed. The cases claim that the company abused its monopoly power by overcharging for the Windows operating system. That charge is supported by some of the government's evidence. One 1997 Microsoft study, for example, concluded that the company should charge $89 for a Windows upgrade--even though it could make a profit at $49.

With those types of documents floating around, it's possible that despite their dumb mistakes, the plaintiffs' lawyers could end up having the last laugh.By Mike France; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

This Ban May Be a Sucker's Bet

The National Collegiate Athletic Assn. suffered more game-fixing scandals in the '90s than in its entire prior history. Now it's looking to fix its image with a bill only a bookie could love. It wants Congress to ban legal betting on college sports.

On Jan. 26, the NCAA will send Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and Dean Smith, former head basketball coach at the University of North Carolina, to Capitol Hill to push for the ban. The bill's co-sponsors are Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

Paterno and Smith will square off against casino interests who say illicit campus betting--not the $690 million legally wagered in Nevada casinos each year on college sports--is the true bad influence on jocks. Casino lobbyist Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., former chairman of the Republican National Committee, has lined up Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to fight the bill. And that may be just a start. Casino interests gave $6.3 million to political campaigns in the last two years, says Common Cause. So for those placing bets on the outcome of this contest, here's a tip: No pol wants to take a gamble on campaign donations in an election year.By Lorraine Woellert; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

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