8 January 2002 A US federal judge has rejected Microsoft’s attempt to delay court hearings to decide anti-trust punishments against it. The case will now go ahead as planned on 11 March 2002.
Microsoft lawyers had pleaded with Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to extend the deadline for the beginning of the hearings by four months, on the grounds that certain witnesses, from rival companies such as SBC Communications, Palm and Sun Microsystems, had not fully co-operated with Microsoft.
Judge Kollar-Kotelly responded by saying that witnesses that delayed proceedings for Microsoft while at the same time co-operating with the prosecution, lead by nine US states, would not be allowed to give evidence for either party.
In early autumn last year, US courts ruled that Microsoft was a monopoly that had used its dominance of the operating system market to restrict competition. Although a deal between Microsoft and the US government was concluded at the end of 2001, nine of the 18 states that joined the action rebelled against the deal, saying that it did not go far enough.
Two separate hearings will now be held simultaneously from 11 March. One is being pursued by the nine rebel states to create a tougher anti-trust settlement, while the other case will investigate the details of the previous settlement agreed by the federal government.
Elsewhere, US consumer rights activist and Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader has accused Microsoft of tax avoidance. Nader claims that the software company’s failure to pay dividends is simply a device to relieve the tax burden on a small number of high value shareholders, such as its billionaire co-founder and chairman Bill Gates.
In the US, Microsoft dividends would be taxed at a rate of 39.6%, whereas assets gained through the sale of stock are only taxed at 20%.