If New York wise guy John Gotti is the "Teflon Don," then Seattle smart guy Bill Gates is surely the "Non-Stick Nerd" – nobody can pin anything on the Microsoft chairman, not even the feds.

On June 28, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned most of a lower court’s judgment that would have broken software giant Microsoft into two separate entities – one for the Windows operating system, and one for productivity and entertainment software.

By bundling Internet software with Windows, and by refusing to share Windows’ code with other software developers, district court judge Thomas Penfield Jackson argued that Microsoft was violating U.S. antitrust laws – i.e. was deliberately creating a monopoly by freezing out the competition.

The court also devoted 20 pages of the 125 page appeal ruling to question the conduct of Judge Jackson, who broached ethics by speaking to the media during the course of the trial. His comments also appeared to be biased against Microsoft.

"The judgment of the District Court is affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded in part," wrote the court of appeals judges. They agreed that Microsoft was creating a monopoly through unusual business practices, but disagreed with the punitive measures suggested, including the proposed breakup of the company.

The court of appeals then sent the case back to district court and a new judge. The basic grievance, that Bill Gates and Microsoft conspired to bury the competition, still stands. The U.S. Justice Department, which brought the antitrust suit against Microsoft in 1997 on behalf of 19 states, is determined to bring Microsoft to heel.

It’s reminiscent of Gotti once again. After beating the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) brought against him in 1986 (thus earning the Teflon Don nickname), the Justice Department doubled its efforts to bring Gotti to justice, going so far as to offer a plea bargain to Sammy "The Bull" Gravano – a mob enforcer who admitted to 19 murders. As a result of Gravano’s testimony, Gotti was sentenced to life without parole, and spent the last nine years in solitary in one of the worst prisons in the U.S.

While the two cases have their obvious differences, you have to wonder how Bill Gates can be so confident that he will beat the Justice Department a second time. While the mafia hates rat finks like Gravano, the general consensus among wise guys is that Gotti brought about his own demise through his arrogance.

When the court of appeals overturned the majority of Judge Jackson’s ruling, Gates called a press conference and spoke like a man who fought the law and won.


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