Microsoft pays EU in full

Company could have submitted a promissory note for its fine but instead ponies up $600 million, as its appeal continues.

Microsoft has paid the $600 million fine handed down by the European Commission in its antitrust ruling against the company.

Representatives of the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant confirmed Friday that Microsoft deposited the payment in an escrow account while the company's appeal is taking place. While Microsoft had the option of submitting a promissory note in place of such a payout until proceedings are complete, the company dipped into its massive cash reserves, estimated at $50 billion, to cover the largest antitrust fine ever levied against a company by the European Union.

In March, European regulators ordered Microsoft to remove its Media Player software from its Windows operating system and pay the fine, imposed because of what the Commission ruled to be unfair business practices. However, the EU has suspended the judgment while the company's appeal goes forward.

Eric Mamer, a spokesman for budget-related issues at the Commission, said the transaction proceeded as expected and that Microsoft had adhered to all the provisions of its regulators' ruling. Mamer indicated that it was not unusual for companies to pay cash to cover such a penalty, and said about half of all organizations paying fines to the EC do the same.

In his ruling, European Competition Commissioner Mario Monti said that Microsoft had failed to provide its rivals with information that they needed to compete fairly in the market for server software. Monti also said that the company's practice of offering Windows on the condition that it come bundled with Windows Media Player stifled competition.

Also this week, Microsoft enjoyed big wins on the legal front in the United States. On Wednesday, a U.S. Appeals Court upheld Microsoft's landmark antitrust settlement with the Department of Justice, rejecting Massachusetts' appeal for stiffer penalties. And throughout the week, the company announced that it had reached settlements in class-action suits filed on behalf of consumers in Vermont and Massachusetts, and preliminary approval settlements in similar cases in Arizona and Minnesota.

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    Matt Hines
    covers business software, with a particular focus on enterprise applications.
     

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