As you read this article today, you can bet many a Clintonista at the Justice Department is going to be crying in their cups this weekend and knocking back some sympathy sauce from the bar. “Ah, what could have been … how did it happen … man, did we get crushed! We had them by the chin of their chinny-chin-chin! Eight years, down the toilet, but, hey, I do have some good sound bites for my resume.”
The settlement of the Microsoft case was total, 100 percent surrender by the Justice Department. All that time, all that money, down the tubes. Now, you can bring Carville and Begala out to spin-it if you like, but this match went clearly to MSFT.
Politics has always been about getting votes. One of the things 9-11 did was remove any hope that any politician in Washington would care anymore about which way the MSFT deal went. There was no more political capital there to be mined. The fishing hole had been fished clean. It was over.
The Justice Department had for years made MSFT their target. Clintonistas at the Justice Department would clink wine glasses on the weekends with David Boies (remember him?) and chortle about how they would hog-tie MSFT in a knot they would never get out of.
Boy, oh boy, those were the days weren’t they? Its enough to make a feller cry.
These days, one might want to note that Mr. Boies, (who the government paid millions to tell us what a threat MSFT was to us all) has gone onto much greener pastures. Hey, he got famous, got lots of free-publicity, and even got to make nice with Peter Jennings on television during the Florida election debacle.
Mr. Boies now represents the satellite business, most specifically Echostar (Nasdaq: DISH) and their new acquisition, DIRECTV.
Now Mr. Boies has hired out to the other side, and he will now tell us (with tongue in cheek and, surely, hand in someone’s pocket) that a 90 percent market share for DISH, after the merger is OK (hey, a guy has got to make a living right?) Monopoly? Schmonopoly! This is different. It’s OK for DISH to have 90 percent market share in the satellite area. See? The great thing about being a barrister is you can have it both ways!
Think about what has just happened here. Imagine the talk across the table between the lawyers this week at Justice vs. Microsoft:
Justice: You have been bad boys, please take your spanking.
Microsoft: Na, no way, we don’t need to settle, we love the smell of victory in the morning and today it smells like victory. If you don’t settle by Friday, we don’t really care. We will just take that court date in March. Hey, life is good. New product coming off the line and selling like hotcakes, we got what, $33, or darn, is it $36 billion sitting around in the cash register? … I’ll have to check with accounting. But, rest assured, it’s business as usual.
Our competition is pulling in their horns everywhere, laying off, cutting back. Us, oh, we’re hiring – any of you Justice Department chumps need a job? We are always looking for guns to hire.
Looks like your run is about over. So, tell us, why should we lay down for you? (That’s whacha call lawyur talk, cost ya bout $750 an hour.)
Oh, and by the way, did you notice that all your “friends” in high places, (namely Capitol Hill), have decided they can’t get any more mileage (read votes) by kicking us at MSFT anymore? We don’t see anybody standing behind you.
When was the last time you saw some congressman appear on PBS, talking about MSFT, and “ain’t it awful?”
Nope, the cameras ran away, and that’s important. These days the politicians mumble quickly into the camera something not ‘sound-bite’ worthy about settling it all, and in private they have already forgotten it.
So, likely said the Microsoft lawyers with a hand that can’t be trumped: You make us an offer, and make it a good one. Because if we don’t like it we’ll just walk away. And we’ll let all you guys at Justice take the heat for wasting time on us, when right now everyone wants you chasing real bad guys. And, by the way, everyone here on the hill, and on Wall Street, knows it will help the market, and hence the economy if we settle, another plus for us, another minus for you.
Yep, it was total, surrender. It was pretty pitiful. After all the cards the Justice Department thought they held.
In fact, we were expecting a fine of some billions, but we don’t even think that will be the case. There may be some fee, but it will be peanuts for MSFT.
So, from where we sit, MSFT is sitting pretty these days. Great product, clear runway, weakened competition. Everywhere you look – satellite/telecom/software/Internet – it seems MSFT has the right stuff to be a player.
Oh, did we mention we think the stock will do well?