Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti and other top Justice Department officials have met with representatives of International Business Machines Corp. to discuss the possibility of settling the longest-running antitrust case in history.
It has been nearly eleven years since the case charging IBM with monopolizing the computer industry was filed -- on the final day of the Johnson administration.
Last month a federal appeals court judge in New York City suggested the two sides should meet to see if a settlement could be reached, because the case had become "a Frankenstein monster."
On Tuesday, IBM brought in its big legal guns to open talks. Senior Vice President and General Counsel Nicholas Katzenbach, a former attorney general, and private attorneys Clark Clifford and Paul Warnke met for more than an hour with Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti and his top antitrust aides.
A Justice Department spokesman said the tone of the meeting "was quite reasonable and quite useful . . . future meetings are likely to take place."
The spokesman said the talks involved "substantive issues" but would not elaborate.
Officials for both sides said they would say no more about the negotiations while they were in progress.
House members working on the Federal Trade Commision bill have agreed to consolidate the attack on that agency's authorities.
Commerce Committe sources say that committee Chairman Rep. Harley Staggers (D-W.Va.) and ranking minority member Rep. James Broyhill (R-N.C.) have worked out a proposal to the Rules Committee that would allow debate on only a couple of key issues and limit the number of amendments that can be offered.
While leaving in the provisions calling for a legislative veto of FTC action and another that forbids the FTC from sueing to revoke trademark on the grounds that it has become a generic trademark (as in the Formica case), the new proposal would eliminate amendments seeking to kill pending FTC rulemakings on children's advertising, standards and certifications and used cars.
But the new proposal would allow two unusual amendments to remain. One would effectively end the FTC's attempt to clean up practices in the funeral industry, and the other would eliminate FTC jurisdiction over agricultural cooperatives.
The funeral industry amendment is the work of Rep. Marty Russo (D-Ill.), who already has secured significant Republican support. The agricultural coop portion appears to have come from Rep. Mark Andrews R-N.D.).
"We wanted to avoid throwing up a whole bunch of issues on the floor," said a consumer subcommittee staffers, who said it was clear that certain rules, like children's advertising, had significant support on the hill. Since the legislative veto essentially covers all rules at the time they are voted by the FTC, there was no need to go then after individual rules at the development stage, the source said.
Changes at the Consumer Product Safety Commission: Massachusetts consumer official Richard Gross, 30, has been named the new executive director of the CPSC and EPA official Kirke Harper has been named director of the CPSC's Office of Budget, Program Planning and Evaluation, a new office aimed at improving intra-agency coordination.
Gross was a driving force behind legal action filed on behalf of consumers against General Motors resulting in the awarding of $44 million after Chevrolet engines were installed in higher-priced GM automobiles.
The Center for Auto Safety, a leading consumer auto safety group, called yesterday on the federal government to expedite an investigation of alleged stalling problems in all 1974-79 American Motors Co. cars and Jeeps.
In a letter to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration head Joan Claybrook, CAS Director Clarence Ditlow said that 290 of its own and NGTSA's consumer complaints show that most stalling of AMC vehicles appears to be carburetor-related, rather than caused by the faulty electronic ignition wiring for which AMC earlier recalled 40 percent of its 1974-79 cars and 1975-76 Jeeps.