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Judge Expected to Rule in Microsoft Antitrust Case Today

Aired April 3, 2000 - 1:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: First came the findings of fact, now the conclusions of law. The case is U.S. versus Microsoft, and the same judge who months ago branded Microsoft a monopolist bully will today announce which specific federal laws the software giant broke, and then he'll decide what to do about it.

CNN's Katharine Barrett now joins us from Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington -- Katharine.

KATHARINE BARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, employees and executives here are hunkered down waiting for that second legal shoe to drop. As you said, that verdict, those conclusions of law are expected at about 5:00 p.m. Eastern time today. That's about 2:00 local time. All expectations are that verdict will wallop Microsoft for violations of antitrust law. The case judge already concluded last fall that Microsoft abused its monopoly power, thereby harming consumers and stifling innovation.

A negative verdict could still prod Microsoft toward settlement at some future date, but now we'll follow months more hearings to decide what penalties and remedies to assess. Microsoft, though, says it will appeal this verdict all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary, and the company has succeeded in overturning past judgments on appeals. It's had better success in the appeals court than in the lower courts so far. But this legal precedent could make it harder for the company to defend itself against more than 100 private lawsuits now on file against it.

Meanwhile, workers here are watching Microsoft's stock as avidly as any Wall Street trader. Many of them have most if not all of their pension money invested in their own company's stock. Others have large option stakes. They'll be hurt just like any other investor as the stock suffers through the uncertainties dogging this case, and it certainly is suffering today -- Lou.

WATERS: Katharine, if the company goes ahead with the appeal to the United States Supreme Court, how long would something like that take?

BARRETT: Well, estimates range from one to two years. That actually seems relatively swift in judicial time. And certainly the trial judge in the first phase of this case has made an effort to make it a much quicker case than past antitrust cases of this size. WATERS: All right, Katharine Barrett in Redmond, Washington keeping watch at Microsoft today waiting for that decision by the judge in the Microsoft antitrust case.

To no one's surprise, Microsoft stock hit the skids today at the opening bell. By midmorning, shares had sunk more than $14, trading at roughly 92.

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