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FTC verdict deals Intel blow in antitrust case

Intel cannot disaqualify Commissioner Rosch

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released a redacted version of its decision not to grant an Intel request to disqualify FTC Commissioner J Thomas Rosch from the antitrust case against the company, saying it didn't express any reservations about Rosch until it became clear he would support action against the chip maker.

"Intel Corporation interacted with Commissioner Rosch for many months, attempting to persuade him to vote against a complaint in this matter without ever voicing a concern about his involvement in the case," the FTC said in the December 18 decision, which was made public on January 19.

"But on December 15, after being informed of the Commissioner's tentative views on the matter and within hours of the Commission's vote to initiate the present case, it filed a motion to disqualify him on the ground that he served as Intel's primary outside antitrust counsel from about 1987 until mid-1993," the FTC said.

The FTC sued Intel on December 16, saying the chip maker used its "dominant market position" to strengthen its monopoly in the microprocessor market.

"Intel carried out its anticompetitive campaign using threats and rewards aimed at the world's largest computer manufacturers, including Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM, to coerce them not to buy rival computer CPU chips," the FTC said at that time.

In response, Intel denied the charges, calling the FTC case "misguided and unwarranted".

Intel's December 15 motion to disqualify Rosch did not allege that he showed partiality in the case or possessed confidential information about Intel related to the case, the FTC said in its decision, calling Intel's motion "tactical in nature".

Intel's argument for disqualifying Rosch relied heavily on his earlier relationship with the company as an antitrust advisor during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

"Commissioner Rosch was Intel's primary outside counsel on antitrust matters for at least six years and personally advised Intel on many antitrust issues and practices, regarding which the Commission has now threatened to sue Intel," the chip maker said in its December 15 motion to recuse Rosch.

An Intel spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment on the FTC decision or why Intel sought to disqualify Rosch from the case.

The FTC said the current antitrust case does not involve actions taken by Intel during the period when Rosch worked with the company.

"This Commissioner's representation of Intel during the investigation initiated in 1991 had nothing to do with monopoly maintenance based on alleged conduct respecting microprocessors, which allegedly began in 1999, and that investigation did not involve the graphics markets alleged in the current complaint at all," the FTC said.

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