A federal appeals court handed Microsoft a major victory, ruling that its antitrust settlement with the Justice Department was in the public interest. The court unanimously rejected tougher restrictions sought by Massachusetts and two computer trade groups. Microsoft still faces a fine of more than $600 million from the European Commission for violating its antitrust laws, but the commission has agreed to hold off forcing Microsoft to change its business practices, pending an appeal that could take several years.
Bank One Settlement
Bank One agreed to a $90 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission and New York's attorney general over charges that its mutual funds group permitted improper short-term trading. Mark Beeson, ex-president of One Group Mutual Funds, agreed to a two-year bar from the industry and a $100,000 fine. The settlement came two days before J.P. Morgan Chase's $58 billion acquisition of Bank One was completed, creating the second-largest U.S. bank, with more than $1 trillion in assets.
Still struggling to fix its financial systems after last year's accounting scandal, Freddie Mac released its long-delayed 2003 financial results, reporting a drop of more than 50 percent in earnings to just under $5 billion. The company blamed the decline primarily on shrinking gains from derivative contracts used to hedge interest rate risks. Freddie warned investors that it may not release any financial results for 2004 until March 2005 as it continues to rely "on a veritable army of consultants" to update outmoded systems.
The Roar for MGM
A bidding war has erupted for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, with Time Warner offering $4.8 billion for the Lion of Hollywood. Although not as high as Sony's $5 billion cash bid made in April, Time Warner's stock-and-cash offer has the appeal of giving MGM controlling shareholder Kirk Kerkorian a major stake in Time Warner. Meanwhile, General Electric's NBC Universal may also be considering a bid for MGM and its highly prized library of 4,000 films.
Democrats to K Street
The Motion Picture Association of America chose former Kansas congressman and agriculture secretary Dan Glickman to replace retiring president Jack Valenti. Glickman was the first Democrat named to head a major trade association since Republican activists started their "K Street Project" a few years ago to transform the lobbying business into a GOP bastion. His selection comes as other Democrats have been hired into prominent lobbying roles, a sign that the K Street effort may be waning.