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U.S. Lobbied EU Over Microsoft Fine 296

Posted by Zonk
from the no-sense-of-entitlement-here dept.
ukhackster writes "European commissioner Neelie Kroes has claimed that she was lobbied by the US government over the Microsoft antitrust case. ZDNet UK is reporting that Kroes 'did not appreciate' being asked to be 'nicer' to Microsoft. Given that Microsoft was fined 280m euros, perhaps this tactic backfired." From the article: "The commissioner criticised the approach. 'This is of course an intervention which is not possible,' Kroes told Dutch newspaper Financieele Dagblad this week. When asked if she was annoyed by the Embassy's approach, she said 'In my work, I cannot have a preference. I have, however, a personal opinion, but that is for Saturday night.'"
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U.S. Lobbied EU Over Microsoft Fine

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  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @01:26PM (#16201637) Homepage Journal

    Since the days of the Yankee Traders the US government has meddled in the politics of other nations to ensure access to favourable trade for its merchants. It is said the American Revolution was more about expanding trade for businessmen in the colonies which the crown sought to prevent. These days there are innumerable reports and accusations conflicts the US finds itself embroiled in have at their very foundation the interests of american business interests. What next? Admiral Perry sailing sailing into the North Sea, firing off a cannon and proclaiming he expects better treatment when he returns?

    American politics and business still haven't got it that much of the rest of the world is more circumspect in it's dealings where americans enter like barbarians and don't get why everyone is so upset.

    Microsoft declined to comment on Kroes's claims, but an insider insisted that the company had not tried to influence discussions between the US government and the EC.

    I don't expect Microsoft was directly behind this, but they sure have changed their stripes in the past ten years, from a company which didn't believe in campaign contributions and lobbying in Washington DC. Though it does seem a stretch that with so many corporations attempting to bend the ear of the US government they would take it upon themselves to do this independently.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ssorrrell (991131)
      Agreed. Didn't we help overthrow Guatemala or one of the Central American countries for bananas (literally) in the '50's. At lease we didn't threaten to invade. I wonder what that would cost. Exxon, Bechtel, Haliburton, any comments?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ackthpt (218170) *

        Agreed. Didn't we help overthrow Guatemala or one of the Central American countries for bananas (literally) in the '50's. At lease we didn't threaten to invade. I wonder what that would cost. Exxon, Bechtel, Haliburton, any comments?

        IIRC Guatemalan government was overthrown because the leadership was going to seize the land held by american fruit interests. I think it is closely associated with the phrase 'banana republic' as in a central american government favourable to United Fruit, Dole, etc.

        The war

        • by 246o1 (914193) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @02:33PM (#16202749)
          "IIRC Guatemalan government was overthrown because the leadership was going to seize the land held by american fruit interests. I think it is closely associated with the phrase 'banana republic' as in a central american government favourable to United Fruit, Dole, etc."

          The Guatemalan government had announced plans to purchase and redistribute most of the land controlled by United Fruit. They would use the equivalent of imminent domain, paying the value listed on tax returns. United Fruit had, of course, been cheating and lying on their taxes, vastly underestimating the value of their land. They had some pull with the Dulles brothers and managed to get the government overthrown.
          • by iluvcapra (782887) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @05:09PM (#16205821)

            John Foster Dulles, the Sec of State, had worked for a law firm that regularly defended United Fruit, and sat on its board of directors, IIRC. An overview of the whole sordid affair can be found in David Halberstam's The Fifties. The bit about compensating United Fruit for their assessed value of the land is completely true and particularly funny, but the Dulleses weren't laughing

            It should be stated, of course, that United Fruit was completely incapable of ordering a war through its intermediaries in the US government, but Arbenz, by initiating a land redistribution plan, was pushing every anti-commie button the US government had at the time, particularly with McCarthy accusing the State Department of having 57 "Card-Carrying Communists" in its senior ranks. Had Dole owned the land and not United Fruit, the outcome would have probably been the same, despite Dulles having worked for their competitor.

            One wonders what action the US would've taken if the land had been owned by a French or Mexican fruit company...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by partisanX (1001690)
      Since the days of the Yankee Traders the US government has meddled in the politics of other nations to ensure access to favourable trade for its merchants.

      Yeah, because governments never did that type of stuff until the inception of the US and no other governments have done that stuff or do that stuff now.

      If you're going to be anti-US, at least have the good sense to slam us for the things we do that every other government on earth doesn't do. Thank you.
      • by ackthpt (218170) * on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @01:44PM (#16201971) Homepage Journal

        Yeah, because governments never did that type of stuff until the inception of the US and no other governments have done that stuff or do that stuff now.

        If you're going to be anti-US, at least have the good sense to slam us for the things we do that every other government on earth doesn't do.

        I'm not being anti-US, it's just that examining a lot of american history in detail reveals unflattering behaviour at the root of conflict.

        One thing I don't believe any other government, or people, have done throughout history is to insist other governments should be more like their own and encouraging change with a very large military. Ironic the US gets along very well with Pakistan where the leader was installed by a coup, yet applauds the overthrow of democratically elected President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Clearly there are things said behind closed doors which would make such things appear logical, but the rest of the world notices and eyes the US warily.

        • by mcmonkey (96054)

          One thing I don't believe any other government, or people, have done throughout history is to insist other governments should be more like their own and encouraging change with a very large military.

          You don't believe in the British Empire? (And by 'be more like their own' I mean run by the British for the betterment of the Bristish, to the exclusion of all others.)

          • by malsdavis (542216) *
            Here in lies the problem for the USA government:

            We simply don't live in the age of empires anymore. (never mind the computer game).

            The British had to establish an empire to be able to actually trade with the countries they invaded. i.e. the British love their tea, so they took over India so people back in Britain could drink tea.

            With the modern world and the WTO etc., all part of the USA's making, such government intervention is heavily dissuaded. In some sense, the US government shot themselves in the foot
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mdarksbane (587589)
          The whole concept of not just outright conquering other nations whom you disagree with, and are more powerful than, is a relatively recent invention. Only since World War II has it really taken hold as a global opinion. Prior to that, it was just assumed that any great power had the right to colonize/dominate any minor country it could, and fight over territory from other great powers using whatever means it had.

          Even within the last fifty years, while the US has been nowhere close to the shining pillar it a
        • by RexRhino (769423)
          One thing I don't believe any other government, or people, have done throughout history is to insist other governments should be more like their own and encouraging change with a very large military.

          This has to be the single stupidest statement I have ever read on slashdot. Have you ever heard of the British Empire? The French Empire? Soviet Domination of Eastern Europe? Did it ever occure to you that pretty much everywhere in the world was some sort of colony of a European power? How does this stupid shit
    • by mcmonkey (96054)
      Please get off your soap box for a moment. Not that I support everything the USA government does on behalf of corporate interest, but let's not pretend the US is the sole practitioner of such tactics. The imperialists of Europe have been using their military might to enrich monetary interests since way before there even was a USA.

      If the 'rest of the world' has any issues with the tactics taken in cases such as these, perhaps it is only that the USA is too successful at the game they invented.

      Don't hate th
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ackthpt (218170) *

        Please get off your soap box for a moment. Not that I support everything the USA government does on behalf of corporate interest, but let's not pretend the US is the sole practitioner of such tactics. The imperialists of Europe have been using their military might to enrich monetary interests since way before there even was a USA.

        The exception to this argument being that Europe isn't doing anything with it's militaries anymore. Oh, a little intervention in West Africa by France, but mostly to keep the p

        • by mcmonkey (96054)

          The exception to this argument being that Europe isn't doing anything with it's militaries anymore.

          So if the Europeans only try to advance their economic interests through diplomatic, rather than military means, then there should be no issue in this case of the USA trying to advance its economic interest through diplomatic means.

        • by Atzanteol (99067) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @02:15PM (#16202453) Homepage

          The world has changed since 100 years ago

          Has it been that long since world war II? Certainly it's been a while. But Europe has a much longer lineage of threating the world than the US does...

    • by m0rph3us0 (549631)
      Yeah, heaven forbid the US government lobbies other nations for things beneficial to its citizens.
  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @01:28PM (#16201673) Journal
    I don't understand what the issue is -- if Siemens or Airbus or Glaxo gets into some regulatory issue in the US, you think their countries' embassies don't try to pull a few strings?
    • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @01:35PM (#16201795) Homepage
      What if those companies had the same sort of regulatory problems in their own country? It seems strange to me that the US government would have antitrust issues with Microsoft, and then have the US government intervene other countries have the same complaints.
      • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by truthsearch (249536) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @02:01PM (#16202211) Homepage Journal
        The US didn't have antitrust issues with Microsoft after Bush came into office. In the first few weeks of office Bush fired all of the experienced lawyers on the case and put young lawyers with no monopoly experience in their place. Soon after Microsoft's wrist was slapped. Also notice how nothing was persued of Gates' lying in federal court. The man probably should have gone to jail for perjury, yet no investigation was even made.
      • by Otter (3800)
        What if those companies had the same sort of regulatory problems in their own country?

        Even if the regulatory issues were identical (which isn't the case, anyway) one hand doesn't care what the other is doing. I'm sure the Italian trade attaches around the world didn't stop lobbying for Parmalat however much trouble they got into at home.

      • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @02:07PM (#16202303) Homepage
        What if those companies had the same sort of regulatory problems in their own country? It seems strange to me that the US government would have antitrust issues with Microsoft, and then have the US government intervene other countries have the same complaints.

        Because the current US government decided they didn't have antitrust issues with Microsoft and just stopped pursuing it.

        Cheers
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RonnyJ (651856)
      Just because others do similar, does that make it OK?

      A defence based on 'well, other people do it too!' isn't good enough.
      • by mcmonkey (96054)

        Just because others do similar, does that make it OK?

        What 'others'? This is the Europeans complaining that the USA has copied their tactics. If you invite me over to play your game, and I see you trying to cheat, don't expect me to give your complaints much weight when I do the same.

        A defense based on, 'well, I'm doing it the way you taught me' seems good enough to me. (I'm not saying some other 3rd party country or company wouldn't have grounds for complaint. I'm just saying it's hard to take the E

      • It's pretty much SOP. Nations don't want to see their own interests fucked, so they'll put pressure on other nations to leave them alone. Doesn't mean the other nations have to listen (as in this case) but you can't fault them for trying. I mean it doesn't say that the regulator was threatened or anything so what's the big deal?
    • by Moby Cock (771358)
      Am I correct is assuming that your point is that corruption and influence peddling is acceptable since it's universal?
    • Exactly. US Embassies have a specific department that does nothing but lobby for US companies in whatever country they are in. Other countries embassies have the same. This is not new, it is not unique to MS, or the USA.

      This is standard practice. I'd have been surpised if the US hadn't lobbied the EU.

      (Of course, there is lobbying and there is lobbying. MS, as a big company, is going to get more backing than most, and it may have crossed an unmentioned line someplace. Still, this story sounds like stan
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by portmapper (991533)
        > US Embassies have a specific department that does nothing but lobby for US companies in whatever country they are in.

        US "lobbying" is more akin to bullying other states, including allies, into doing what the US
        government wants. That does not always work though, partly due to the end of the Cold War
        and the disgust the current US administration generates.
        • The only reason that the U.S. is different from most other countries in this regard is because the U.S. has a lot more power than most.

          I expect that when China "lobbies" one of it's neighboring countries -- or virtually anyone else -- from a position of power, they apply all the same pressure. There I expect it's probably even stronger, since politics and industry are so closely intertwined.

          The states that complain most about the U.S. using its power for its (by which I mean, its citizens) own advantage are
          • by malkavian (9512)
            Interesting then that Bush didn't actually originally get voted in, he was appointed by a set of Judges.
            And second time round it wasn't that convincing either, after all the playing around with statistics that got him in again.
            Actually, it seems that the kinder, gentler policies are quite popular.
          • by killjoe (766577) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @04:31PM (#16205065)
            "The only reason that the U.S. is different from most other countries in this regard is because the U.S. has a lot more power than most."

            No. The principle reason is that we are willing to use that power. We have no qualms about killing as many people as we want and causing as much damage as we want to get what we want.

            There are other powerful countries in the world like china, germany, france etc that have armies that can invade and occupy most weak countries (like iraq) but they don't do it.

            The US has been involved in some war or another every three to seven years for all my life. We are a country of warmongers. We can't go a decade without killing somebody or another and that's a stark difference between us and china.
  • by nharmon (97591) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @01:32PM (#16201751) Homepage
    What sweet revenge after the failed antitrust case; try and lobby a foreign court into being easy on Microsoft knowing they'll do the precise opposite.
    • Who wants to bet the next foreign court to investigate Microsoft gets inundated with letters from thousands of American Slashdotters, all demanding then to be nice to our dear friend Microsoft?
  • If only... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Weaselmancer (533834) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @01:36PM (#16201819)

    In my work, I cannot have a preference. I have, however, a personal opinion, but that is for Saturday night.

    If only more politicians and government officials had this mind set. Bravo.

    But unfortunately in America, this is rarely how it goes. We haven't had people who think that way in the last 150 or so years here. We had the founding fathers, then maybe 50 or 100 years to bask in their glow...then it all became special interest groups, big business, professional lobbying and damn the rest.

    A good local example I can think of is the office where my wife used to work. It was the nearest large city's plans, permits and zoning office. They had a raging debate for hours on end. What was the debate, you may ask? Whether or not it would be a good idea to put a nativity scene on the door for the holidays!

    Can you imagine adults actually having to debate that?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Can you imagine adults actually having to debate that?

      A large proportion of adults still worship a god who advocates slavery, religious genocide, and the inherent inferiority of women. Then they yammer on and on about how great, loving, and compassionate their God is. :-(

      Based upon that evidence, I can believe just about anything. Being adult just means your body stopped growing, not that you're free of prejudices or that you are in any way rational, objective, or impartial in your views of the outside worl
      • A large proportion of adults still worship a god who advocates slavery, religious genocide, and the inherent inferiority of women.
        That may equally refer to christians, jews, and muslims.
        • by MightyYar (622222)
          I think he was referring to anyone who believes in the Old Testament, or whatever name a particular religion gives that book. Most Christians will claim that Jesus obsoleted most of the nasty bits in that book, but for some reason they still quote from it when it suits them :) Even Jesus doesn't tell you to get rid of your slaves, you just must treat them well. I think that he makes some mention about how slaves should aspire to be more like their masters.
    • Re:If only... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by thefirelane (586885) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @01:55PM (#16202131)
      We had the founding fathers, then maybe 50 or 100 years to bask in their glow

      It says a lot about your understanding of US history [wikipedia.org] that you think it was like that.
      • I don't see how your reference adds anything to the discussion, unless you are somehow saying that the Sedition Acts were suggested by some private entity for some private interest which somehow motivated President Adams to enact them.

        I believe the acts were misguided - but I also believe that President Adams was really honestly trying to do what was best for the country by enacting them. I don't see an ulterior motive. I don't believe he was pandering to any particular small group, interest, or corpora

        • by Spectra72 (13146)
          You don't see how enacting laws that, in part, outlawed critisism of the US President couldn't be the act of a special interest group? How about the special interest group that was the political party of the sitting President? You don't think that stifling dissent from the likes of Jefferson and his supporters would help out Adams' party?

          Best interest of the nation? The laws were there to smother opposition, not to protect the nation.

          Astonishing that people think everything was hunky dory in the United Stat
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kfg (145172) *
      We haven't had people who think that way in the last 150 or so years here. We had the founding fathers. . .

      John Hancock was America's largest . . .tea merchant. This just might have had some influence on his political point of view.

      KFG
  • by Megajim (885529) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @01:38PM (#16201853)
    This is going to make me sound like a nut-case, but I fear that this speaks to the in-bed deal between MS and the government. Specifically, I've had the feeling that things were neatly wrapped up in the United States MS case right around the time that it became "okay" for the government to monitor its citizens. Yes, this is an uninformed opinion, but MS got off easy over here and now they're the 800 pound gorilla that everyone ignores when debating wire tapping and the government's monitoring of private information. Seems that it would be a simple effort for MS to allow government access to at least the hard drive directories of every windows user. Just to make sure things are safe. Flame away or mod me into obscurity.
  • On the face of it, there is nothing wrong with this.

    Practically every country in the world would lobby for a company the size of MS if it was in their backyard. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is a good thing(TM). America has to aggressively expand trade of it's goods and services worldwide.

    We all know that the underlying issue is what makes it /. headline. Microsoft's reach is greater, gov't acts quickly to their requests while other industries suffer a kind of benign neglect until they p
  • Do such lobbying tactics ever work? Can you give examples?

    The Pirate Bay case doesn't count because they were back up within 2 days stronger than ever, continue to operate now, and no one associated with them has yet been punished. The only thing still missing on their site are many of their hilarious replies to received legal threats.

  • by hey (83763) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @01:41PM (#16201907) Journal
    They pay taxes. So their tax dollars are used to lobby against them! Eg Novell, Red Hat, etc.
  • If a politician can, by simply dispatching an envoy or making a phone call, prevent millions of dollars in additional deficit, you better believe they'll at least try. In fact, if they didn't try then they wouldn't be doing their job. Posting a story like this is nothing but anti-MS fodder.

    Dan East
    • Please, try to see something more complex. If all that matters is the financials of a nation, than tell me, why are we in Iraq?
  • by jd (1658) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @02:00PM (#16202201) Homepage Journal
    I have, however, a personal opinion, but that is for Saturday night.


    "In a startling new development, Microsoft's appeal against the record anti-trust fine is to be heard this Saturday, at 7pm GMT. Early reports indicate that the judges hearing the appeal had been seen buying Linux t-shirts and double-bladed battle axes."

  • Doesn't the EU try to help out Airbus and other companies based in their region of control the exact same way?
  • Modus Operandi (Score:3, Informative)

    by AnalogDiehard (199128) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @02:07PM (#16202321)
    M$ has either intervened or infiltrated most processes in their favor. When the antitrust trial was underway, M$ lobbied to have funds reduced for the DoJ. When the white house changed hands, the DoJ attorneys on the case were replaced with rookie lawyers who let the punishment phase get reduced to a slap on the hand that has yet to be enforced. M$ always won reversals in appeals courts on petty technical details. M$ always was involved in standard setting committees with their own business interests at stake, not the interests of the committee. The Java community reluctantly allowed M$ into their world, and their worst fears came true when they embraced/extended Java into their Windoze-eccentric version, which was forced off the market after litigation from Sun.

    The EU has not forgotten that M$ was branded a monopolist in US federal court and that the appeals court upheld that judgement. M$ has few options of recourse outside the US - little chance of reversal in appeals, no lobbying channels to undercut barriers to their monopolist tactics, and a well read community with little tolerance for strong handed tactics from corrupt US corporations.

    Good to see that there are level headed authorities in the EU that are not so easily swayed.

  • After all, it's not as if the EU were trying to fine a US company or something.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Fuzzums (250400)
      There are rules. They're called LAW.
      But maybe in the US they're meaningless?
      Din't think so. Break them and suffer the consequences.
      • My only point is that if you're going to look at companies from a global perspective, then you going to accept the reality that other countries have the right to comment any way they wish. This case isn't an internal EU matter.
    • by ZeroExistenZ (721849) on Tuesday September 26, 2006 @02:48PM (#16203017)
      After all, it's not as if the EU were trying to fine a US company or something.

      It's fining a company doing business in the EU. The "US company" just reflects to where it was founded. If you do business on EU soil, you have to obey EU laws. Even if you only are doing *just* import.


      It's the same where I would start a daughter-company in the US. I wouldn't have a "European company", European law wouldn't apply. US law would. If in that case, the US courts would fine me, the EU shouldn't meddle with the US courts unless international laws are being violated.

      • Of course, but it's absurd to claim there's something wrong the home country expressing their opinion on the matter. After all, were it not for the lobying effort of non-EU companies, there wouldn't even be any case against MS.
    • by houghi (78078)
      They should indeed butt out. They were conviced because of the European law. When Shell does something terrible and is conviceted in the US, then I would expect the EU to butt out as well.

      The company operates in the EU and thus must follow the EU laws, just as companies that operate in the US must operate according to the US law.

      And I think governements should butt out in all cases, including the ones where drug smugglers get a dead penalty in some country or another.
      • I'd agree as long as third-parties like Real, Sun etc would also butt out. It's really non-EU companies that initiated this, not the EU.

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