Microsoft?s share price rose today following optimism on Wall Street that last week?s Federal Appeals court victory and strong initial sales of the company?s new Windows 98 operating system had taken some of the pressure off.
The firm?s stock price rose 2 7/8 to 107 5/16 in midday trading of 8.54 million shares, making it the most active stock in US markets.
But, Senator Orrin Hatch was less forgiving and continued to up the ante in his fight against the software giant, accusing it of stonewalling his investigation and of lobbying to cut funds to the Department of Justice?s (DoJ) antitrust department, which is continuing its investigation of Microsoft?s alleged anti-competitive business practices.
On a speech on the floor of the US senate, Hatch said: "I find it rather surprising that any one company would, rather than seeking to prevail on the merits, instead have the hubris to try and use the appropriations process to "go on the offensive" and seek to restrain a federal law enforcement agency that has an obligation to enforce the laws," he said.
He continued: "I trust my colleagues in this chamber would have little difficulty in seeing this as anything but an effort to interfere with an ongoing law enforcement action."
He also charged Microsoft supporters in the Senate with using the appropriations bill to put pressure on Joel Klein, assistant attorney general, who heads the DoJ?s antitrust division.
Microsoft supporter?s Slade Gorton and Lauch Faircloth had opposed the DoJ funding bill, which earmarked $9 million in a additional funds for the antitrust division. A Senate subcommittee, however, approved raising the budget by $4 million to $98 million for the next fiscal year. The two Senators also supported an addendum, which criticised the antitrust unit for holding press conferences about the Microsoft case.
A Microsoft spokesman admitted the company was aware of the debate, but denied it had been involved in lobbying.
But, Hatch also accused the software supplier of playing "a game of hide the ball" and deploying a "massive PR campaign grounded in spin control and misdirection" when responding to his committee?s criticism of its business practices.
He said his committee would hold further hearings on competition in the digital age when Congress returns from its July recess. These will focus in particular on Microsoft?s role in the server software market, following the publication of the Software Publisher?s Association?s highly critical White Paper on the subject (see Newswire 26 July), and on the "practices and developments affecting access to and transactions on the Internet."
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