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Plotting against Microsoft Corporation isn’t always easy. But when Washington, D.C., lobbyist Mitchell “Mike” Pettit set out last year to find an author for an anti-Microsoft treatise, the choice was a no-brainer: Susan Creighton, the antitrust partner at Palo Alto, Calif.’s Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati who helped ignite the government’s landmark case against the monopolist from Redmond, Wash. Pettit’s timing, it turns out, was propitious. While Creighton banged out the 59-page “Passport to Monopoly,” with dire warnings about Microsoft’s latest Internet strategy, she was negotiating a move to a key antitrust post in the Bush administration. The 41-year-old Creighton will start work after Labor Day, handling litigation at the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition. In antitrust circles, Creighton is a card-carrying anti-Microsoft agitator. Five years ago — while her then-partner Gary Reback played a more public role — Creighton penned the infamous white paper commissioned by Netscape Communications Inc. in its frantic but ultimately futile effort to stop Microsoft from monopolizing the Internet browser market. More than 200 pages long, the tome couldn’t save Netscape, but it helped prod the Department of Justice into action. A 1984 Stanford Law School graduate, Creighton started out doing only intellectual property litigation when she joined Wilson Sonsini after clerking for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Scholarly and low-key, Creighton ventured into antitrust when Reback, who is now chairman of Scotts Valley, Calif., telecom startup Voxeo Corporation, took up the anti-Microsoft crusade on behalf of Netscape and other Silicon Valley companies in the mid-1990s. Creighton went on to wage antitrust fights on behalf of clients such as VISX Incorporated; Synopsys Inc.; and 3COM Corporation. By last fall, when Pettit came calling on behalf of his lobby shop ProComp — backed by Microsoft rivals Sun Microsystems Inc., AOL Time Warner Inc. and others — it didn’t take Creighton long to enlist. (Creighton was on vacation and unavailable for comment by press time.) Beginning in December, Creighton and a team of lawyers and software engineers dissected beta versions of Microsoft’s .NET software for evidence of predatory shenanigans. For two months this spring the operation was put on hold while Creighton dealt with a family health issue. By June, however, Creighton was putting in 18-hour days to catch up. At last, several days before the federal appeals court ruled in U.S. v. Microsoft, Pettit began to distribute the final paper to various state attorneys general involved in the antitrust suit. At least two, the top lawyers from Connecticut and Iowa, then went public with new concerns about the magnitude of Microsoft’s .NET strategy, which the paper contends is aimed at extending the company’s control of the PC desktop and Internet browser to the lucrative market for instant messaging and other Web services. U.S. v. Microsoft has been the Justice Department’s baby — not the FTC’s. But the FTC has tussled with Bill Gates & Co. before. Earlier this year, for instance, the FTC closed an investigation when Microsoft agreed to make changes to ads for its handheld computers. And it was the FTC that launched the original antitrust investigation of Microsoft a decade ago (the case was eventually handed off to the Justice Department). At the agency, Creighton will be a deputy director under Joseph Simons, a former Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells partner who was named director of the agency’s Bureau of Competition in June. According to Wilson Sonsini’s Charles “Chris” Compton, Creighton and Simons had worked together on an antitrust case involving VISX. Federal campaign records also show that Creighton gave about $40,000 to the Republican Party and its candidates during last year’s election. Lawyers who know and have opposed Creighton say they don’t expect her past allegiances to follow her east. “I trust her judgment and I trust she will take the right positions,” says Peter Detkin, a former Wilson Sonsini partner who’s now assistant general counsel at a company that has had its own run-ins with the FTC — Intel Corporation, which went up against Creighton client VIA Technologies Inc., in an antitrust dispute that began in 1999. Another antitrust lawyer suggests that Creighton will likely recuse herself from Microsoft matters and other cases where the appearance of a conflict is glaring. Microsoft’s top lawyer, William Neukom, who did not return phone calls for comment, might like hearing that. After all, with all the furor erupting over .NET, the company doesn’t need any more government enemies.

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