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California Attorney General Bill Lockyer mixed humor and harsh words Friday as he described his reasons for opposing a government settlement in the Microsoft antitrust case. Speaking at a luncheon of the Contra Costa County Bar Association, Lockyer called the agreement “pathetic.” He said every assertion in the document has three exceptions that benefit Microsoft Corp. “I don’t think it will have an effect on their behavior,” Lockyer said. The U.S. Justice Department announced Nov. 2 that it had reached a proposed settlement with Microsoft. Half of the 18 states that were plaintiffs in the case agreed to sign onto the settlement, but the others, including California, have refused to do so. Lockyer did not discuss what California might demand of the software company to settle its suit. But he quipped that the remedy phase “ought to be a 12-step program for Bill Gates” in which Gates begins each day saying, ” ‘I am a monopolist.’ “ He also poked fun at Gates’ argument that consumers would benefit from the integration of Microsoft products into its operating system. “His way of explaining this,” Lockyer said, is to compare it to General Motors selling a car with headlights already installed. “What would it mean if Microsoft were selling us automobiles instead of General Motors?” Lockyer asked. “For no reason whatsoever, twice a day your car would crash,” he joked. “Every time the lines were repainted in the road you would have to buy a new car and if airbags were to deploy you would hear a message ‘are you sure?’ “ Lockyer, a Democrat, also suggested that Microsoft benefited from the shift to a Republican administration. “I don’t know to what extent the policy decision — politics — were affected by the election,” Lockyer said. “A business leader in California called me on Monday and asked, ‘Is it possible the $7 million Microsoft gave the Bush campaign had an impact?’ I had to say ‘I hope not.’ “ Lockyer said he would continue battling Microsoft “to see that California consumers and businesses get the best possible result so there is open and fair competition.” Eugene Crew, a partner at Townsend and Townsend and Crew and lead counsel in a California class action against Microsoft, was more specific in discussing the issues that remain on the table. With regard to reparations, he said experts estimate damages to 13 million consumers at $2 billion to $4 billion. Crew also dismissed the government’s settlement as a “sell-out.” It “does not prevent Microsoft from extending its monopoly to any operating system it wishes,” Crew said. A hearing in the California case — a consolidation of 30 different class actions — will be held on Nov. 20 in San Francisco Superior Court, and a trial is scheduled to begin in August 2002.

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