graphic
News
U.S. antitrust chief resigns
September 19, 2000: 4:32 p.m. ET

Joel Klein, chief on Microsoft case, will resign at end of September
graphic
graphic graphic
graphic
NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Joel Klein, the chief prosecutor in the government's antitrust case against Microsoft Corp., said Tuesday he will resign from the Justice Department at the end of this month.

Klein, 53, the chief U.S. antitrust enforcer, did not give a specific reason for his departure, nor did he indicate his future plans.

"I am enormously grateful to President Clinton for giving me this opportunity," Klein said in a statement. "My five-and-a-half years with the division have been extraordinarily gratifying, but the time has come to seek new challenges. I have done what I set out to do here, and our work is on the right track."

The Microsoft case is now in its appeal phase after a U.S. District Court judge ruled against the software maker in June, ordering it to be split into an operating systems company and an applications one. The Supreme Court is expected to decide soon whether it will handle the appeal directly, or send it to a lower appeals court.

graphicAttorney General Janet Reno selected Klein's deputy, Doug Melamed, to be the acting assistant attorney general for antitrust enforcement.

"He has been principal deputy throughout my tenure, and he is an exceptional lawyer and outstanding public servant," Klein said about Melamed.

Melamed, 55, is a 1967 graduate of Yale and a 1970 graduate of Harvard Law School. He was with Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, a prestigious Washington law firm, for 25 years before assuming his current post in October 1996.

Antitrust lawyers said that it is routine for high-ranking members of the executive branch to leave shortly before a new presidential administration takes office. With the presidential elections only seven weeks away and the Microsoft case temporarily on hold, this is a logical time for Klein to leave, they said. Melamed would need to be confirmed by the Senate to become the full-time antirust chief. It's doubtful, however, that the Senate will vote on a confirmation for the position until after the November elections.

In an interview with CNNfn.com, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal had strong praise for both Klein and Melamed. Blumenthal has been one of the lead attorneys general among the 19 states suing Microsoft alongside the federal government's case.

"Joel Klein has taken antitrust enforcement to a new and higher level of intellectual rigor and forceful advocacy and protection of the public," Blumenthal said. "He's been more proactive and consumer minded than many other antitrust enforcers. Joel is a hands-on enforcer who is enormously energetic and supportive of his staff, inspires tremendous loyalty, and has very insightful judgment." 

Blumenthal said he expects Melamed to continue down the same path in the Microsoft litigation that Klein pursued.

"Doug is a great guy who has many of Joel's characteristics," he said. "I've never detected big differences in their outlooks."

Iowa attorney general Tom Miller, another active attorney general in the states' case against Microsoft, also had high praise for Klein.

"Joel Klein has been one of the best antitrust chiefs in the nation's history," he told CNNfn.com "He will be remembered for many remarkable decisions and actions taken under his leadership, and particularly for the courage and vision he demonstrated in the Microsoft antitrust case."

In a recent speech at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Klein said that the Justice Department doesn't believe that big businesses that have substantial power over their markets are necessarily bad.

"Sound antitrust policy does not believe that big is bad or that success must be punished," he said in that speech. "Quite the contrary -- where success is the result of skill, foresight and industry, consumer welfare is enhanced." 

"In both AT&T and Microsoft, antitrust enforcement became an issue not because of the acquisition of market power but because of how that power was protected and/or expanded. This is a fundamental point to understanding the future of antitrust enforcement," he added.

Microsoft  (MSFT: Research, Estimates) stock rose 75 cents to $64.94 in late afternoon trading Tuesday. Back to top





graphic