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NAME: Michael H. Morris TITLE: Senior vice president, general counsel and secretary AGE: 53 IN THE NEWS: In announcing the November 2001 settlement of the government’s antitrust case against Microsoft Corp., Attorney General John Ashcroft said that “the historic settlement will bring effective relief to the market and ensure that consumers will have more choices in meeting their computer needs.” The assessment of Sun Microsystems’ general counsel was less glowing. “Just utter nonsense,” Michael H. Morris says of the settlement. “There’s nothing in it that will even remotely restrain Microsoft.” His strong opinion is not surprising. Morris has fought for years to restrain the software giant. In 1997, he sued Microsoft for violating its license to use Sun’s versatile Java programming language. Microsoft allegedly produced and promoted a version of Java that ran only on the Windows operating system. In January 2001, Sun settled the suit for $20 million and an injunction that barred Microsoft from distributing nonstandard Java. The settlement, however, concluded only one battle in Morris’ campaign against Microsoft. In 1997, he joined others to lobby the Department of Justice to sue Microsoft under the Sherman Act for monopolizing the Internet browser market. In April 1998, Morris launched “Project Sherman,” his own secret, Sun-funded project to hire big-name antitrust scholars and lawyers for a last-ditch presentation to DOJ. The following month, the feds and 19 states filed their lawsuit, which — a few million dollars and countless thousands of lawyer-hours later — resulted in Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson’s ruling that Microsoft violated antitrust laws and must be broken up. In June 2001, a federal appeals court reversed the breakup order but upheld the antitrust findings, citing Microsoft’s jamming of Java as a prime example of its anticompetitive conduct. Morris believes that the settlement gives away the store to a confirmed monopolist. “Why should anyone think that a weak remedial regime is going to have any effect on someone who is not only a serial violator of the antitrust laws, but also a serial denier that they ever broke them?” he wonders aloud. Morris supports continued litigation by the nine states that have refused to sign off on the proposed consent decree, which remains subject to public comment and court approval. Sun will file adverse comments, says Morris, and is considering other legal options against Microsoft. “Rest assured that our point of view will be made known,” he says. ORGANIZATION: Founded in 1982, Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun Microsystems has become a Silicon Valley success story, with its servers, work stations, software and computer support services generating more than $17.6 billion in revenue in 2001. MORRIS’ MISSION: Morris oversees a law office with a $120 million annual budget and 300 employees, including 190 lawyers. Subordinate general counsel and attorneys are dedicated to Sun’s hardware, software and enterprise services groups, with cross-cutting corporate and intellectual property law departments. Sixty percent of his staff work in or near Sun’s new corporate campus in Santa Clara, with the rest scattered worldwide. “I can’t keep track of 190 lawyers, so I don’t even try,” Morris confesses. “I know what goes on through constant interaction. “My function is to do things,” he says. “To make sure that the general counsel are performing their jobs, and to act as a facilitator if people run into roadblocks.” Company lawyers handle most of the day-to-day legal trade, with Morris farming out work such as litigation, complex mergers and acquisitions, and immigration matters. LITIGATION: Since the early 1990s, the company has not been involved in litigation big enough to warrant mention in its filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Although Sun files more than 400 patent applications annually, it has no active patent litigation, says Morris. The 40,000-worker company is currently the target of only about 20 employment claims worldwide, he adds, only eight of which are in litigation. Most of Sun’s litigation caseload involves routine commercial matters, such as contract, lease and supplier disputes, says Morris. “The best form of litigation management is avoidance, and you avoid it by good business practices and — when disputes do arise — by good faith efforts to settle rather than elevating everything to a war footing,” he says. PRINCIPAL OUTSIDE COUNSEL: Sun’s principal outside counsel is Palo Alto, Calif.’s Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. IP litigation is handled by San Francisco’s Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison. Day Casebeer Madrid & Batchelder of Cupertino, Calif., represented Sun in the Java case. The D.C. office of Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells handles antitrust matters. No one has ever accused Morris of being a spendthrift with his $30 million budget for outside counsel. In 1999, before the dot-com crash, the competition for legal talent sparked a bidding war among firms serving Silicon Valley, with Brobeck offering a $125,000 starting salary for new associates. Morris and chief IP counsel Ken Olson fired off e-mails to Brobeck and other outside firms, which soon leaked to the press, expressing displeasure about subsidizing sky-high pay for newly minted lawyers. Morris calls the episode “ancient history,” but recalls it somewhat nostalgically. “If I had a choice, I’d rather deal with outrageous associate compensation in flush times than reasonable compensation in tough times,” he says. ROUTE TO THE TOP: The son of a tool and die maker in Battle Creek, Mich., Morris graduated from Northwestern University in 1970, and earned a J.D. from the University of Michigan in 1974. After five years as a commercial litigator in St. Joseph, Mich., Morris went in-house at ROLM Corp., a Silicon Valley minicomputer maker, becoming general counsel in 1981. In 1986, Morris left to become the top lawyer at USX Telecenters, a telecommunication startup. The next year, Sun invited Morris to interview for its GC opening. Morris balked after learning that he would be interviewed by two deputy GCs who had already been passed over for the top job. The jilted lawyers had given negative reviews to all of the prior candidates, Morris says, and he was unwilling to subject himself to this “silly” hiring process. “Hiring general counsel is a decision that senior management and the board have to make,” says Morris, who told the then-CFO that he would meet with his subordinates only if he were introduced as their new boss. He came aboard as vice president and general counsel. “My career plateaued on the first day I was hired,” he jokes. PERSONAL: Morris and Richard Blinkal, his partner of 22 years, live in Los Altos Hills, Calif. There are few openly gay general counsel in Fortune 500 companies, but Morris says his sexual orientation has had no discernible career impact. “I don’t know what people say behind my back, but as long as I don’t know about it, I guess I don’t care,” he says. When he first moved to the Bay Area, he became actively involved in gay political issues, protesting the TV coverage of San Francisco’s Gay Pride Parade and campaigning for a gay rights ordinance in Santa Clara County. More recently, his political activities have been mostly confined to giving money to groups such as the Human Rights Campaign and the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. LAST BOOK READ: “Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr.,” by Ron Chernow.

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