Microsoft Settles Iowa Antitrust Case

Nagging antitrust case in Iowa draws to a predictable close. Settlement details will be ironed out in a different court hearing.

(Des Moines, Iowa) Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday settled a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of thousands of Iowans who bought the company's programs between 1994 and 2006. Terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed.

The lawsuit sought more than $330 million from Microsoft for allegedly engaging in monopolistic and anticompetitive conduct that caused customers to pay more for software than they would have if there had been competition.

Microsoft denied the allegations, saying Iowa customers received quality products at fair prices.

On Wednesday, Polk County District Court Judge Scott Rosenberg ordered attorneys to refrain from disclosing details of the settlement until April.

"The court will be advised of the terms of the settlement in April and there will be a hearing on April 20 for preliminary approval and if all goes as scheduled there will be a hearing for final approval on Aug. 31," said Microsoft attorney Rich Wallis.

The world's largest software maker has faced 206 class-action lawsuits across the United States since 2000. The company said 108 were consolidated in a federal antitrust case and 96 remained in state courts.

Most were dismissed or settled before trial.

Only two, the Iowa case and one in Minnesota, went to trial. The Minnesota case was settled after about two months into the trial.

Attorneys Roxanne Conlin and Rich Hagstrom filed the Iowa lawsuit in 2000.

"It was a mutual decision to settle and you kind of have to see the cards lay down. That's part of what happens for both sides," Conlin said. "You have to assess your risk and you have to assess what's in the best interest of your clients."

Both sides agreed the settlement will include making money available to buy computers and software for Iowa schools.

"We're going to take half of the unclaimed amount and use that to close the digital divide in Iowa," Conlin said.

Conlin would not say whether the settlement would take the form of cash or vouchers for computer equipment. Previously, she said she would refuse to accept vouchers.

In the Minnesota case, the lawyers sought more than $300 million from the company. During trial, the case settled for $174.5 million. Lawyer fees were about $59.4 million, according to court documents. The six plaintiffs who brought the case forward received $5,000 each.


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