In court papers unsealed this week, a California software company, Burst.com, has accused Microsoft Corp. of systematically destroying e-mails and other documents crucial to lawsuits. Burst.com further alleges that Microsoft trashed e-mails relevant to Burst's antitrust suit against the software giant -- even after the trial judge ordered it to retain the documents. A Microsoft spokeswoman said the company has been "completely forthcoming" regarding documents involved in legal cases.
By Foster Klug|November 18, 2004 at 12:00 AM
Thank you for sharing!
Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Microsoft Corp. developed policies stressing the systematic destruction of internal e-mails and other documents crucial to lawsuits it has faced in recent years, a California software company alleges. Burst.com, in court papers unsealed this week, also accuses Microsoft of destroying e-mails crucial to Burst’s lawsuit against the software giant even after the trial judge ordered it to retain the documents. Burst had previously claimed that Microsoft deleted e-mails it needed for evidence. But the unsealed 50-page motion, filed Oct. 29, provides new details, Burst says, of “institutional policies” by Microsoft “to make sure that incriminating documents disappeared.” Burst is suing Microsoft for alleged anticompetitive behavior, saying Microsoft misappropriated the intellectual property behind its multimedia software after breaking off talks with Burst on a joint project. Burst, according to the motion, wants the jury in the case to be told that Microsoft failed to retain important documents, so jurors should infer that the company did so because those documents were damaging. “Critical e-mails have been destroyed and will never be recovered. We’ve tried; they’re gone forever,” said Burst’s lead attorney, Spencer Hosie. “This is the only remedy that’s left open to us.” The motion mentions an e-mail on Jan. 23, 2000, in which Jim Allchin, a Microsoft senior vice president, told the Windows Division to purge e-mails every 30 days: “This is not something you get to decide. This is company policy … Do not archive your mail. Do not be foolish. 30 days.” Microsoft spokeswoman Stacy Drake said Allchin’s e-mail was followed by a broader message, saying that that policy didn’t pertain to workers involved in legal proceedings. She said Microsoft has produced “millions and millions of documents and e-mails for the various legal cases we’ve been involved in, and we’ve been completely forthcoming in all document requests in this case as well.” Microsoft, Drake said, has also spent “tremendous amounts of resources on policies to make sure the documents that need to be kept are kept.” Microsoft has settled a string of lawsuits in recent years, including an antitrust suit filed by the Clinton administration but settled with the President Bush’s Justice Department. The government case was over charges Microsoft used its dominance in the operating systems to muscle out rivals, most prominently Netscape in Web browsers. Microsoft has since spent more than $3 billion settling antitrust and other claims by AOL Time Warner Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc. and other companies. The Burst case remains one of the few pending. Microsoft also has pending a major European Union case that chiefly challenges Microsoft’s bundling of media player software with its operating systems. The Burst case and others involving Microsoft have been consolidated for pretrial matters in Baltimore under U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz, who in August 2003 ordered Microsoft to search for any deleted e-mails relating to discussions with Burst. In May 2000, in a separate consolidation of class-action cases against Microsoft, Motz had ordered the company to preserve all records that could be relevant to future cases, according to the motion. “Given this array of litigation, Microsoft had a concrete duty to preserve relevant documents. But it did not,” the motion says. According to the Burst motion, Microsoft:
Want to continue reading? Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.
Benefits of a Digital Membership:
Free access to 3 articles* every 30 days
Access to the entire ALM network of websites
Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
Search by a wide range of topics
*May exclude premium content Already have an account? Sign In Now
With this subscription you will receive unlimited access to high quality, online, on-demand premium content from well-respected faculty in the legal industry. This is perfect for attorneys licensed in multiple jurisdictions or for attorneys that have fulfilled their CLE requirement but need to access resourceful information for their practice areas.
Our Team Account subscription service is for legal teams of four or more attorneys. Each attorney is granted unlimited access to high quality, on-demand premium content from well-respected faculty in the legal industry along with administrative access to easily manage CLE for the entire team.
Gain access to some of the most knowledgeable and experienced attorneys with our 2 bundle options! Our Compliance bundles are curated by CLE Counselors and include current legal topics and challenges within the industry. Our second option allows you to build your bundle and strategically select the content that pertains to your needs. Both options are priced the same.
Dynamically explore and compare data on law firms, companies, individual lawyers, and industry trends.
Exclusive Depth and Reach.
Legal Compass includes access to our exclusive industry reports, combining the unmatched expertise of our analyst team with ALM’s deep bench of proprietary information to provide insights that can’t be found anywhere else.
Big Pictures and Fine Details
Legal Compass delivers you the full scope of information, from the rankings of the Am Law 200 and NLJ 500 to intricate details and comparisons of firms’ financials, staffing, clients, news and events.
[ON DEMAND] Join this webcast for the latest trends in discovery in international litigation and arbitration, plus hear from lawyers with experience across a multitude of jurisdictions about how they overcome challenges in obtaining discovery around the world.
As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters.
Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss.
Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.