April 6, 2011

Bill Gates Sr. and Jr.

Jonathan Last points to Michael Kinsley's new oped in the LA Times, in which Kinsley explains that his old boss at Slate, Bill Gates, was a Jefferson Smith-type innocent who didn't understand that the city slickers of Washington D.C. would fleece him unless he hired lots of lawyers and lobbyists. Kinsley asserts:
For many years before the [Clinton Administration's antitrust] lawsuit, Microsoft had virtually no Washington "presence." It had a large office in the suburbs, mainly concerned with selling software to the government. Bill Gates resisted the notion that a software company needed to hire a lot of lobbyists and lawyers. He didn't want anything special from the government, except the freedom to build and sell software. If the government would leave him alone, he would leave the government alone. 
At first this was regarded (at least in Washington) as naive. Grown-up companies hire lobbyists. What's this guy's problem? Then it was regarded as foolish. This was not a game. There were big issues at stake. Next it came to be seen as arrogant: Who the hell does Microsoft think it is? Does it think it's too good to do what every other company of its size in the world is doing? 
Ultimately, there even was a feeling that, in refusing to play the Washington game, Microsoft was being downright unpatriotic. Look, buddy, there is an American way of doing things, and that American way includes hiring lobbyists, paying lawyers vast sums by the hour, throwing lavish parties for politicians, aides, journalists, and so on. So get with the program. 
So that's what Microsoft did. It moved its government affairs office out of distant Chevy Chase, Md., and into the downtown K Street corridor. It bulked up on lawyers and hired the best-connected lobbyists. Soon Microsoft was coming under criticism for being heavy-handed in its attempts to buy influence. But the sad thing is that it seems to have worked. Microsoft is no longer Public Enemy No. 1. 

Okay, I've heard that before, so maybe it's true. But here's what I don't get. In the movie Casino Jack (now out on video, here's my review), Kevin Spacey plays out-of-control lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In the first half of the movie, Abramoff works in DC for a big law and lobbying firm called Preston Gates & Ellis. 

Wikipedia explains:
Preston Gates & Ellis, LLP, also known as Preston Gates, was a law firm with offices in the United States, China and Taiwan. ... Preston Gates was ranked among the top 100 law firms in the United States by both The American Lawyer magazine and the National Law Journal, and was traditionally considered, along with Perkins Coie, one of the two leading Seattle-based law and lobbying firms. 
The "Gates" in the firm's name is William H. Gates, Sr., father of Microsoft founder Bill Gates.[1] Gates retired from the firm in 1998. ...  

The Gates are Democrats, by the way, just like the Clintons.
The firm's Washington, DC office is known as Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds LLP. When it was opened in 1973, partners included Emanuel Rouvelas, former counsel to the Senate Commerce Committee, and former Congressman Lloyd Meeds (D-WA).[3] Among its major clients is Microsoft, which paid PGE over $1,380,000 for lobbying various federal government institutions. During that time the chairman of the firm was William Neukom, who was employed by Microsoft as head of its legal department. ... 
From 1994 to 2001, Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds LLP employed Jack Abramoff, a Republican lobbyist later convicted for his illegal activities. [2] Abramoff was hired by partner Emanuel Rouvelas following the Republican takeover of Congress: according to the Seattle Times (1995), although the firm's representatives were half Democratic and half Republican, they "didn't have a conservative, Christian Coalition Republican with strong ties to the new Republican leadership."

So, I’m a little skeptical about the notion that Bill Gates Jr. was just a poor rube from the sticks who didn’t know about the importance of lobbying in Washington when his dad was a name partner of the firm that unleashed Jack Abramoff on the world. Moreover, one of the specialties of Preston Gates & Ellis was antitrust defenses of corporations accused of monopoly.

I don't really understand the full story here: it doesn't make sense that Gates Jr. wouldn't understand lobbying. Maybe what happened is that Gates Sr. reassured Gates Jr. that he had D.C. covered for him -- Trust me, son, I'm a pro at this -- but he let his kid down.

Or maybe Gates Jr. held Gates Sr.'s career in contempt? But they seem like they have respectful and pleasant relations. 

That's all just speculation, but it seems like there must be a a human interest story here that I've never heard spelled out.

P.S. Yes, I will pre-emptively admit to commenters that, indeed, it is petty and makes me look bad that I try to find out more about people like Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Muamar Gaddafi, and so forth. I realize that these gentlemen go to great expense to employ PR agents who will tell us all we need to know about them.

68 comments:

Anonymous said...

The son is actually named William H. Gates III.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting find.

However, there's no question that Microsoft's failure to lobby lead directly to the Clinton DOJ's persecution. Microsoft was a different company after that...they could no longer play to win. It was the single biggest factor in their fall, with the second biggest (by a significant margin) being the rise of Google.

Regarding your find, it seems the cleanest explanation is that Gates Junior had no real interest in what Gates Senior was doing professionally until he needed that family connection.

That's not too unusual. There are a lot of physicians whose parents are computer scientists (say) who can't really talk much about their work.

Anonymous said...

"I’m a little skeptical about the notion that Bill Gates Jr. was just a poor rube from the sticks who didn’t know about the importance of lobbying in Washington when his dad was a name partner of the firm that unleashed Jack Abramoff on the world."

But Gates Jr. does seem a little naive about worldly things like education, the way a lot of democrats - and geeks - can be.

With the possible exception of a lot of Obama speculation, I don't think posts like these are petty. You have to analyze the movers and shakers to know how the world moves and shakes.

Tscottme said...

Some media narratives, OK most media narratives, are too good to be fact-checked.

Heather Bragg said...

A friend of mine ran a nonprofit out of his apartment, largely funded by Microsoft during their antitrust troubles, the Center for the Moral Defense of Capitalism, later the Center for the Advancement of Capitalism. They wrote op-eds and amicus briefs best summarized as "Antitrust? FUCK antitrust!"

Possible explanations: Microsoft believed that lawmaking was too slow, relative to software. Any costs that could be avoided by lobbying would be exceeded by the costs of lobbying.

SFG said...

"Or maybe Gates Jr. held Gates Sr.'s career in contempt? But they seem like they have respectful and pleasant relations. "

Who said they were enemies?

Maybe Jr didn't think he needed Dad's help until he got hit with the antitrust suit. Maybe Dad was watching out for his son before trouble came. Maybe Kinsley's trying to portray his old boss as a (relatively) idealistic computer geek uninterested in Washington games until they bit him on the ass.

Realistically, we'll probably never know.

And yeah, these computer geeks aren't big into Christian conservatism, relative to other businessmen. The Google guys are Jewish, and a lot of nerds aren't religious anyway. The ones who aren't liberal tend to be libertarian. The nerd mind tends not to be very spiritual in general.

I never thought that churches getting in bed with businesses was appropriate anyway. Didn't Jesus kick the money-changers out of the temple? Yeah, the capital gains tax is an instrument of Satan. A society where 1% of the country has 40% of the wealth is very Christian. Whatever. I think if the Bible really is true, a lot of televangelists are going to hell. Millions of people going without food or jobs seems a lot more evil than a bunch of gay guys in leather in San Francisco.

Bill N said...

Did the old man really let him down? I worked for a government contractor all through the 90s into the early 20000. Never once was there even a hint that we would back off the relentless purge of everything non-Microsoft (Word Perfect, gone, Frame Maker, Gone, Novell, gone, ANY alternative desktop OS, gone)

Frankly, I never thought the Fed legal push was anything more than run of the mill Sound and Fury to squeeze money out of Silicon Valley, who Hated Gate & companyh. (I'm no u$oft fan BTW). If the Feds were at all serious, they would have at least made some effort to use government contracting power to open the market. Instead, we were DIRECTED to only send them documents in Word format.

The naive rubes who got suckered were the Silcon Valley execs who thought Washington was serious.

ribock said...

Few pastimes are more enjoyable than sorting and reclassifying the interactions of the Great and the Good and the Bad.

slumber_j said...

Or maybe funneling what would otherwise be shareholders' money to one's father's firm is appealing to some people...

Has to be said...

It doesn't make sense that Gates Jr. wouldn't understand lobbying.

He understood lobbying all right, just didn't think he'd need it. He sincerely did not think the government would go after him and his business. He is a Democrat, remember, so for him the government is a benign force that is always fair and would never hurt someone deserving like him.

Bantam said...

Steve, you can be compared much favorably to the chaps named at the end of your post; moreover your intellectual output - how many impressively powerful posts did you churn out recently? - is nothing short of this.

catperson said...

I think the government went after Gates because the white house and other elite politicians couldn't stand the fact that this socially awkward nerd was making zillion times more money than all of them combined, and added insult to injury by ignoring them & not needing them to achieve his success. I think they were jealous of his stratospheric IQ & how brilliantly he translated it into wealth, resentful of the way he looked down on them to the point of refusing to even acknowledge their existence, and they wanted to knock the nerd down a peg.

For decades, super genius nerds like Bill Gates have often lived in their own world playing computer games all day and letting more mediocre people rule the world and have all the success. But Gates is a nerd who decided to apply his super genius to making money, and in the process, he blew everyone away, and by the time he became the world's first centi-billionaire, they felt they had to do something to stop him because his success was making so many powerful people feel inferior.

gwern said...

> I don't really understand the full story here: it doesn't make sense that Gates Jr. wouldn't understand lobbying. Maybe what happened is that Gates Sr. reassured Gates Jr. that he had D.C. covered for him -- Trust me, son, I'm a pro at this -- but he let his kid down.

Gates Jr. is famously Aspergerish, and what is lobbying but illogical socializing, unjustifiable law-making, and schmoozing?

Maybe he heard about lobbying (although let's not forget that lots of men leave their work at work and do not discuss it with their kids) but neither understood nor appreciated its value.

Chicago said...

Nothing wrong with trying to find out more about the people who have some impact on our lives, going behind the curtain of public relations and manufactured biographies. Of the ones mentioned Gaddafi is probably the least boring as an individual; he seems to be good for a lot of quotable sound bites and doesn't need a team of speechwriters and a teleprompter.

dearieme said...

Do you in the US use that handy expression "He's not as green as he's cabbage-looking"?

Anonymous said...

I suspect that Microsoft may have agreed to help the US government with its espionage activities as part of the settlement of the anti-trust suit. The suit was settled in the spring of 2001.

Joseph Nacchio, former CEO of Qwest, alleges in the spring of 2001 Qwest was approached to help the US government with surveillance.

"Former Qwest CEO Says NSA Punished Phone Firm
By Ellen Nakashima and Dan Eggen
The Washington Post
Saturday 13 October 2007

Qwest called program illegal, records show

A former Qwest Communications International executive, appealing a conviction for insider trading, has alleged that the government withdrew opportunities for contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars after Qwest refused to participate in an unidentified National Security Agency program that the company thought might be illegal.

Former chief executive Joseph P. Nacchio, convicted in April of 19 counts of insider trading, said the NSA approached Qwest more than six months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to court documents unsealed in Denver this week.

Details about the alleged NSA program have been redacted from the documents, but Nacchio's lawyer said last year that the NSA had approached the company about participating in a warrantless surveillance program to gather information about Americans' phone records.

In the court filings disclosed this week, Nacchio suggests that Qwest's refusal to take part in that program led the government to cancel a separate, lucrative contract with the NSA in retribution. He is using the allegation to try to show why his stock sale should not have been considered improper."

The John Cobert Report said...

Yes, the anon "petty" comments are mildly amusing.

How dare you doubt the veracity and rectitude of our pillars of public conventional wisdom and the annoited on in particular.

I switched on the Cobert Report and Steward Show to see their take on our current Libyan misadventures. I hadn't see it for months as it's become tediously unfunny now that it can no longer excoriate our POTUS, governmental corruption, incompetence, etc.

They had some short mild segement on Libya without a single mention of Obama. Then, each went into some long, boring and tangential segment attacking some lefist phamton bugaboo. Even the studio audience wasn't laughing at this obivously manufactured "balance" piece. I wonder how their ratings are doing since Obama came in office?

Kylie said...

"Or maybe Gates Jr. held Gates Sr.'s career in contempt? But they seem like they have respectful and pleasant relations."

Maybe "contempt" is too strong a word. Maybe this was just typical son-rebels-against-his-father behavior, choosing a different career from his dad's and choosing to pursue it in a different way-- idealistically, rather than practically.

It'd be interesting to see where Melinda Gates resembles Bill, Jr.'s mom at all or whether she's totally different.

"Yes, I will pre-emptively admit to commenters that, indeed, it is petty and makes me look bad that I try to find out more about people like Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Muamar Gaddafi, and so forth."

I'm surprised you deigned to reply to such silly criticism. Your curiosity only makes you look bad to the fourth-rate "thinkers" unable to see basic distinctions and to such people, no reply is owed.

Were you to speculate about, say, a witness in a high-profile criminal case, such criticism might be valid. People are sometimes thrust into the limelight through no fault or design on their part and their privacy deserves respect.

But the people you speculate about here have made a choice to put themselves in the public eye. Furthermore, all the examples you cite determine public policy to some degree. Why shouldn't we speculate about the motives of those who take it upon themselves to decide what is best for us? And such speculation necessarily involves exploring their lives and even ferreting out things they may not want others to know.

If they're that keen on their privacy, they need to get out of the public eye.

I'm a total privacy nut. But you can't choose to occupy a public forum--especially when you make decisions intended to affect the public--and then declare your private life off-limits. You yourself answer appropriate questions about your private life, so it's not as though you're being a hypocrite here.

Garrett said...

There's an interesting excerpt from Paul Allen's memoir in the current Vanity Fair. He basically accuses Gates of continually trying to screw him, Social Network-style, out of his share of the company. Hardly a picture of someone you'd think of as naive.

But maybe Gates is entitled to some sympathy. There's this priceless anecdote of what happens to a guy with an IQ of 165 when he finds himself in a classroom competing against guys with IQs of 175 and 185:

. . .

When Bill got the news that he’d been accepted at Harvard University, he wasn’t surprised; he’d been riding high since scoring near the top in the Putnam Competition, where he’d tested his math skills against college undergraduates around the country. I offered a word to the wise: “You know, Bill, when you get to Harvard, there are going to be some people a lot better in math than you are.”

“No way,” he said. “There’s no way!”

And I said, “Wait and see.”

I was decent in math, and Bill was brilliant, but by then I spoke from my experience at Washington State. One day I watched a professor cover the blackboard with a maze of partial differential equations, and they might as well have been hieroglyphics from the Second Dynasty. It was one of those moments when you realize, I just can’t see it. I felt a little sad, but I accepted my limitations. I was O.K. with being a generalist.

For Bill it was different. When I saw him again over Christmas break, he seemed subdued. I asked him about his first semester, and he said glumly, “I have a math professor who got his Ph.D. at 16.” The course was purely theoretical, and the homework load ranged up to 30 hours a week. Bill put everything into it and got a B. When it came to higher mathematics, he might have been one in a hundred thousand students or better. But there were people who were one in a million or one in 10 million, and some of them wound up at Harvard. Bill would never be the smartest guy in that room, and I think that hurt his motivation. He eventually switched his major to applied math.

. . .

So a little understanding, please. Allen also says that the first time he met Steve Ballmer, he thought to himself "This guy looks like an operative for the N.K.V.D."

Why pay for lobbyists when all you need to get ahead in this country is an IQ of 165, no conscience, and your own personal Chekist enforcer?

Anonymous said...

Paul Allen has apparently written an autobiography. I recently read excerpts from it, I think at Vanity Fair. He says there that while he was sick with cancer in 1982 and consequently couldn't work as much as he used to, he overheard Gates and Ballmer plotting to dilute his, Allen's, share of the company. He confronted them about it and they backed off. He listed several other episodes where he felt deceived by Gates.

The portrait of Gates drawn in those excerpts: very smart, driven, bad-tempered, not very honest.

As for Kinsley, who knows, he may be keeping his olptions open for another job with Gates.

not a hacker said...

Steve, as a lawyer let me explain a few things. First, the fact that Preston Gates was a "top 100" law firm is meaningless. In the context of DC powerbroking, where only a handful of homegrown D.C. or NYC firms have any stature, Preston is strictly flyover. You notice they had to merge with another firm even to establish a local office. The relevant firms are Wilmer Cutler, Patton Boggs, a few others. Secondly, no firm has a "specialty" of antitrust defense, because such prosecutions are almost as rare as Pete Rose-style gambling investigations. For example, the first big antitrust case of your lifetime, the IBM case, was handled by NYC's Cravath Swaine and Moore. Can you remember them being involved in any other AT matter? Even when they're civil rather than criminal cases, they bring such prestige that every big firm wants the work, and Preston Gates would be well down the line in the order of choice. Think Occam's Razor: being from the provinces, even Bill's dad would be ignorant of the imperative Kinsley's talking about.

Dan Kurt said...

re: "Bill Gates Sr. and Jr."

Actually make it "Bill Gates Sr. and Jr. and Mother"

Keep searching Steve and you will find the payload. MicroSoft hit the big time by ONE really astounding piece of good fortune: supplying the IBM PC with the DOS operating system. That stroke of fortune was the lever that vaulted MicroSoft into the economic stratosphere and Bill Gates Jr into the race for the world's richest man.

No it was not political lobbying that was the key so Bill Jr. was correct in avoiding lobbying in D.C. for a long as he did.

It was not stealing per se that did it although theft sure had a part to play. What occurred was that Gates "steals" ( sharp dealing for sure ) most of DOS from Seattle Computer Products of its QDOS ( oka 86-DOS ) which Seattle Computer Products had "developed" ( allegedly ) from stolen reams of code from Digital Research's CPM.

Digital Research had its own operating system CP/M-86 ready for the IBM PC but IBM "chose" the MicroSoft DOS by pricing it a $40.00 a copy while offering Digital Research's CP/M-86 at $240.00. ( IBM also offered a third operating system UCSD p-System [Version IV, supplied by SofTech] @ circa $700.00 which ran at glacial speeds on the IBM PC's 8088 and as such was a non starter. )

Now why did IBM de facto choose MicroSoft's version of DOS over Digital Research's version which at the time was a mature operating system and ready to go while MicroSoft's DOS was being cobbled together by a Cancer stricken Paul Allen out of Seattle Computer Products QDOS.

Probable answer, look at the United Way's national executive board at the time where Bill's mom was a co-member with IBM's Chairman, John Opel, who allegedly was really "lobbied" by Mary Gates to use her son's MicroSoft as a supplier for the forthcoming IBM PC. Soon after the mother's intercession IBM did hire MicroSoft.

Dan Kurt

Richard A. said...

Jack Abramoff for Microsoft was one of the biggest lobbyists for H-1B expansion in the 90s. Kinsley's oped is PR of the BS variety.

Henry Canaday said...

Maybe Gates felt about his old man's law & lobbying business the way Alan Jay Lerner felt about the shoe fortune made by his dad. Lerner blew much of his inherited pile on settlements of his six or seven divorces, while he kept his own show-business earnings so tight, he didn't even pay taxes on them.

Fred said...

Steve,

Off-topic, but considering you've written about the judge in question before, I thought you might find this of interest: "Judge gives 'Juror No. 799' indefinite jury duty after she makes racist remarks on questionnaire"

Severn said...

Microsoft has certainly been a major force in lobbying the federal government when it comes to H1-b visas. I don't think they're quite as innocent and naive as Last imagines.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't seem like to much of a stretch to me, I've never seen a company as successful as Microsoft up until that time not get involved in D.C. politics. I remember watching a documentary on Gates on A&E or History Channel and it was clear that although Gates Jr. wanted to be successful it was to be entirely on his own terms. Gates moved to Albuquerque after dropping out of Harvard. Albuquerque is pretty distant from Seattle and Mom and Dad didn't want him to leave Harvard in the first place. His father also mentioned that starting around 12, Bill Jr. became quite disdainful of authority, particularly if said authority was not up to snuff intellectually. Gates has said multiple times that his hero growing up was Richard Feynman and Gates owns the video rights to "The Character of Physical Law" lectures that Feynman gave at Cornell in 1964 and is making them publicly available on the web. I also remember when there was a lot of meet and greet between high tech companies and Hollywood in the 1990's that Gates remarked that the intellectual level in Hollywood did not impress him and that Michael Crichton was the only person in the entertainment industry he meet that he would classify as smart.

Anonymous said...

Gates needs a non-absolute wet nurse in Washington.

Anonymous said...

When Gates was innovating and outcompeting IBM and others, he wanted the government to stay out of his business.

Now he wants our patent and immigration laws changed to suit him.

interesting article.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft made too many enemies in the industry, and they all ganged up against it.
With the rise of Google and other firms, there's more competition, which means less anxiety about Microsoft.

Whiskey said...

MS felt, according to people I knew who worked there, that spending money on lobbying and lawyers was for boring, staid utilities. Not an exciting, changing company.

What did in MS, really, was a tailing off of revenue growth in MS Office and Windows, Sarbox, and thus the inability to pay (cheaply) employees with stock options. The options even they could be issued (which Sarbox killed) were now going to be underwater. This meant either market rates for programmers, to gain the "insane" devotion MS had been known for, or cheap H1-Bs in a "human wave attack."

Reg C├Žsar said...

The son is actually named William H. Gates III. --anonymous

No, son, father and grandfather are named William Henry Gates. The number is merely an appendage, with no legal status.

Until the past century, the suffix applied only to the living. So when William Sr passed on, William Jr became Sr, and William III moved up to Jr. And that's assuming they were traveling in the same circles.

Actually, at times distantly related or even unrelated men with the same name would be called Sr and Jr if they lived in the same town.

travis said...

The nerd mind tends not to be very spiritual in general.

So the nerd mind tends to be what? Physical? What else is there? I guess you meant to say that the nerd mind is not religious. The confusion between the two is one of the consequences of Puritianism (and that is a part of Gates' heritage). The Puritans were unquestionably religious. For some of their descendents, however, that wasn't pure enough and a few of the elect became spiritual (Theosophists, Transcendentalists, Neo-Plationists, etc). So I image Gates Jr did look down upon his father as dirty for involving himself with the the corrupt world, and that contempt, an appopriate word, for his father inspired Junior to pursue more purely intellectual achievements. When he got slapped with an anti-trust suit, Gates' idealism quickly gave way to reality and he needed his father's experience. It's an eternal story: At some point in his maturation a man realizes that he is a naive Luke Skywalker who must reconcile with Darth Vader (Dark Father). I'm sure Bill Ayers, er...I mean Barack Obama had that eternal story in mind when he was writing Dreams from My Father.

Now that Obama and Gates have dealt with their daddy issues they can focus their missionary zeal on the reform of Africa. It'll be interesting, if nothing else.

Svigor said...

MS felt, according to people I knew who worked there, that spending money on lobbying and lawyers was for boring, staid utilities. Not an exciting, changing company.

This is basically a rule. All businessmen want the gubbmint to keep its hands off while they're growing. Then, when they get close to the top, they turn around and lobby the government to destroy all the competition and give them a monopoly.

"Judge gives 'Juror No. 799' indefinite jury duty after she makes racist remarks on questionnaire"

That's what jury nullification is for. I'd have a field day.

Anonymous said...

When the Corleone family got too big, the Five Families conspired against it. I remember just about every computer company--even close partners like Intel--taking swipes at Microsoft for pulling every dirty trick in the book to hog it all.
Maybe Gates, having gained supreme power, learned not to piss off competitors as much.

Wes said...

Great post by Dan Kurt, I think there is something to the view that his Mom used her connection with IBM to help Bill Jr. It's ironic, because I get the impression he used to have a testy relationship with his Mom.

Also, I don't think we can call Bill Jr. or any of the Gates naive about legal or political matters. I note that Bill Jr. almost never allows himself to be interviewed by anything but friendly "press" (usually bought and paid for). He hardly ever submits to any real journalists and that has been his approach from the beginning. He pumped his public image to the max, but he did all he could to control that image from the start.

Anonymous said...

Dearieme, Do you in the US use that handy expression "He's not as green as he's cabbage-looking"?

He certainly has that wilted leaf look about him. I well remember that expression, and here's another of my mum's favourites: 'He knows how many beans make five.'
Gilbert Pinfold.

keypusher said...

@ not a hacker

Maybe you really are a lawyer, but if so you have to be the most ill-informed one I've ever encountered.

First off

no firm has a "specialty" of antitrust defense,

Google "Axinn Veltrop." Or "antitrust boutique."

because such prosecutions are almost as rare as Pete Rose-style gambling investigations.

Have you ever heard of the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice? Dozens of lawyers work there investigating and prosecuting full-time. How about the Federal Trade Commission? Both of these entities have websites where you can look up all their cases.

For example, the first big antitrust case of your lifetime, the IBM case, was handled by NYC's Cravath Swaine and Moore. Can you remember them being involved in any other AT matter?

"Antitrust is, and always has been, one of Cravath's core practice areas."

http://www.cravath.com/practices/litigation/antitrust-litigation_-regulatory-clearance-and-advisory/

Cravath has many lawyers who do nothing BUT antitrust.

No doubt many readers know this already, but the IBM case made Cravath's David Boies a star. Later he led the Microsoft prosecution, brilliantly. Now he has his own firm.

Generally, people who think the Microsoft got sued because politicians couldn't stand how rich Gates was greatly exaggerate the ideological coherence of the federal government and how much control politicians exert over it.

Steve Sailer said...

The marketing research company I mostly worked for was involved on both sides of antitrust litigation for about 15 years.

keypusher said...

@ not a hacker

Also, once you've familiarized yourself a bit with antitrust, you may want to study Occam's razor.

Anonymous said...

Not to necessarily blast Allen, but from what I understand a lot of people have said the book is a angry hatchet job and that there are a lot of inconsistencies in his narrative, claiming to be in meetings he never attended and what not. Regarding Gates academic ability, I think the general consensus from people who knew him at Harvard was that he may not have the very best at mathematics, but that he was second to none in computer science. He was taking graduate courses as a freshman and apparently never taking notes and blowing the curve for the rest of the class. A doctoral student said that Gates would just sit with his arms behind his back and correct the algorithms being written on the board anytime the prof made a mistake. He also said everyone else in the class hated him, but that he would ask him questions on occasion, and that his answers were always penetrating and beyond anything this guy could have thought of on his own.

Gates apparently wrote an outstanding paper in theoretical computer science that solved a problem presented to him a math class that he co-authored with his professor who is now at UC-Berkeley. According to Wiki, he scored a 1590 on his SAT which pre-1995 equates to a IQ of 170. Incidentally, the third Microsoft billionaire, Steve Ballmer despite his claims of technical incompetence, was apparently one of the guys at Harvard that was better at math than Gates was. He pointed out once that he scored about 30 places higher than Gates at U.S. Math Olympiad before they both entered Harvard and I saw a special about him once on I think CNBC, in which Ballmer's high school prep math teacher said that Ballmer was the smartest student in mathematics he ever had, and that there never was a problem he presented to Ballmer that he didn't solve. Since these two guys are now the face of Microsoft and have been for a while, you have to wonder if some of Allen's book is an attempt to knock them down a peg by claiming they screwed him over.

Mr. Anon said...

It sounds like Microsoft's model for lobbying was much like their model for software development:

Rush a crappy product out to market early, then replace it later with something that kinda works okay.

Anonymous said...

>'PR agents who tell us everything we need to know about them.'

Is Bill Gates descended from the first Rockefeller's top charity disbursement guy or not? I've poked around the net a little and I can't tell.

DraganPNW said...

Re: Garrett: "But maybe Gates is entitled to some sympathy. There's this priceless anecdote of what happens to a guy with an IQ of 165 when he finds himself in a classroom competing against guys with IQs of 175 and 185."

Is there a way to measure IQ of 175 or 185? I haven't seen it, if you have a source please post it. The source I found here provides correlations between SAT and IQ and GMAT and IQ, and it maxes out at about IQ of 165.

Re: first anonymous after Keypusher: "According to Wiki, he scored a 1590 on his SAT which pre-1995 equates to a IQ of 170."

Nope, according to the link above it correlates to an IQ of 163, using SD of 15. Not to be nitpicky, but that's half a SD difference.

Anonymous said...

"P.S. Yes, I will pre-emptively admit to commenters that, indeed, it is petty and makes me look bad that I try to find out more about people like Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Muamar Gaddafi, and so forth. I realize that these gentlemen go to great expense to employ PR agents who will tell us all we need to know about them."

lol

u mad bro?

Anonymous said...

Look here, the plural of Gates is Gateses. The person in question is not Bill Gate.

I know it's complicated stuff.

catperson said...

Nope, according to the link above it correlates to an IQ of 163, using SD of 15. Not to be nitpicky, but that's half a SD difference.

The link you provided is based on a simple linear extrapolation, but the old SAT does not have a linear relationship with IQ at the high end because the math section tops out. Based on the actual rarity of 1590 old scale SAT scores, it works out to 170 (SD 15), however I'm not sure the SAT is a meaninful measure of intelligence beyond an IQ of 140 or so. There's also been conflicting reports about Bill's SAT scores.

Gc said...

"Is there a way to measure IQ of 175 or 185? I haven't seen it, if you have a source please post it."

Sure there is. If someone is better in math than a guy with an 165 IQ it automatically means that his IQ is 175. No tests needed. If someone is much better then his IQ is 185 etc ;)

Gollum Svigor Seses said...

Look here, the plural of Gates is Gateses. The person in question is not Bill Gate.

Stupid, fat, Gateseses.

spandrell said...

ok se let me see if I get this.
We have this guy who has a stratospheric IQ of +4SD at the least.
So what does he do with it.
Build a software business that makes him the richest guy ever.
Ok, i can relate with that. But what does he do with the money?
Marry a plain looking employee,
and donate the money to build schools for blacks?
I mean WTF? I understand worshiping IQ when it produces a Gauss or a Von Neumann, but what has Gates done ?
I could even admiring him if he bought a pacific island country and build himself the biggest harem on earth.
If all a 160 IQ gives you is windows and the Melissa Gates foundation, its pretty clear that the marginal returns of IQ decrease very fast. Just sayin'

Anonymous said...

From gatecrasher to gatekeeper. That's Bill.

Anonymous said...

The connection between being a high Putnam scorer and a elite mathematician is not as strong as some people here may think.

Gates of course got a B in that notorious Harvard Math course which is an introduction to modern mathematical thinking...its anlysis+linear algebra+point set topology. And even A+ level sucess in this course is no gurantee of success as a research mathemtician. Instructors for this notorious course tell the students in this notorious Harvard math course this.

Fields Medal winner Terrence Tao has made this same point about the Putnam and other Math Olympiads. Elite level research mathematics requires very deep conceptual understanding. Lots of time and effort is spent trying to understand concepts.

This is why the old Cambridge Tripos was abandoned...when it was realized that there was no connection between being the top wrangler and original cutting edge mathematics. The Cambridge Maths and Physics Tripos bears no resemblance to the old Tripos.

Next point:Bill Gates got where he is because he was 1)very lucky and 2)a beneficiare of tax payer funded goverement-for decades- programs...massive violation pf free market principles in other words. The same can be said of Mark Andressen.

Gates and Andressen are both predatory parasites with enormous wealth and poltical power. And they are using this enormous wealth and political power to bring about an unprecedented racial transformation of the United States.

Anonymous said...

It's possible that it was a strategic decision. They could have made the calculation that flying under the DC radar was good for them--that DC being ignorant of tech, as they pretty much had been up until the tech bubble, preserved the status quo, and the status quo was good for them. Lobbying draws attention to themselves. So--try to hide from DC until they can't, and then ratchet up DC lobbying.

Extending DC ignorance by even a year or two could be fantastically profitable for them.

Anonymous said...

I just remembered the name of that notorius Harvard Math course. It's called Harvard Math 55. It's a legendary course.

Here is something interesting. One of the instructors for the course is an Israeli mathematician named Dennis Gaitsgory who works on the Geometric Langlands Program and is a Fields Medal realm research mathematician. In an interview, Gaitsgory has stated that he never did very well in any math olympiad competitions. Yet, the students in his Math 55 class-all Math Olympiad superstars-including Putnam-are overwhelmed by his mathematical depth.

Andre Okounkov who won the field medal the same year as Terrence Tao was an economics major who never competed in a mathematics Olympiad competition and has stated that he doesn't even like them.

Hedge fund billionaire Doyne Farmer-who has a PHD in plasma physics from Cal Santa Cruz-attempted to solve some of the old Cambridge physics Tripos physics problems that were given in the eighteenth century and said he was incapable of even solving one of these problems.

Back to the sociopath Gates. Bill Gates is not the worlds greatest computer programmer. He was at the right place at the right time. And as I mentioned, he is a great beneficiare of the subsidization of every aspect of computer technology-hard and soft-since WW11. And during this state subsidized WW11 and post-WW11 technology incubation period, the American tax payers who paid for this computer technolology were 90-95 percent White American. Of course, we all know how this pencil-neck sociopath thanked the millions of White American Tax payers who subsidized every aspect of computer technology...Gates used his billions to buy traitors in the Republican and Democratic Parties who provided him with scab replacement wokers from Asia..who are now powerfull players on the US poltical scence...using their power and wealth to accelerate the racial transformation of the US to the great detriment of the White American Majority.

Anonymous said...

What was the Microsoft scandal in the 90s called? Gatesgate?

not a hacker said...

Hi there, Keypusher:

Always enjoy your posts. Doubtless when it comes to business law, other lawyers are better informed than I. Personal injury and employment law leave a bloke rather low on the industry totem pole. No, I'd never heard of Axinn et al.

But are you kicking a strawman? I don't think I said antitrust litigation doesn't exist or that a few lawyers don't make some money at it. But to specialize, in its common meaning, would require making a career by mostly doing ant-trust, no? And this is what I doubt. BTW, I get the impression from Axinn's webpage that even there, actual AT litigation might take a back seat to more prosaic regulatory matters.

Here's a webpage from one of the more successful plaintiff-side antitrust litigators, from my state. http://www.blechercollins.com/Attorneys/Maxwell-M-Blecher.shtml. I find it amusing that this guy trumpets his leadership on a collusion claim, Aguilar v. ARCO, that was tossed on summary judgment, a ruling that was then affirmed on appeal!

In 1999 I met a partner at San Francisco's prestigious Orrick firm who listed himself as an antitrust horse. I thought his office was suspiciously devoid of paper, and concluded he didn't have much to do. I'm sorry you (for some reason) took it personally.

One thing you may not know about law is that often the cases involving the most money will actually revolve around exceedingly simple issues. One case I saw like this was handled by the Munger (Buffett's partner) firm, which also prides itself on doing "complex" litigation. It was a billion dollar restitution claim by Bank of America. As Glass-Steagall was about to expire, they were desperate to acquire an investment bank, so they bought a west coast boutique run by a charismatic founder, who then retired. After 6 mos., the talent decided they didn't want to work for a retail bank, and left en masse to resurrect their old shop. BofA had neglected to place any language in the agreement to address this possibility, so what was their argument at the binding arbitration? "It's unfair." I kid you not.

Best,
3rd tier lawyer.

Dan Kurt said...

re:"Regarding Gates academic ability, I think the general consensus from people who knew him at Harvard was that he may not have the very best at mathematics, but that he was second to none in computer science." ANON

I know of only ONE piece of software Bill Gates wrote and was published and in it he had a co-writer, Neil Konzen [ alleged software thief*]. The software is called DONKEY (the BASIC program DONKEY.BAS). Read about it here:
http://tinyurl.com/3lrxmfa
The web page where one can read about the program and see it run says a lot about the Quality of Bill Gates as a programmer: Coding Horror.

It reminds me of the old SAT verbal analogies:
Bill Gates is to Programming as is
Obama to a) Speaking, b) Bowing,
c) Writing or d) Working.
Answer: Writing.

Dan Kurt

*Konzen story in here: http://tinyurl.com/3b9njan

DraganPNW said...

Re: catperson

Thanks for the explanation.

Anonymous said...

You guys are mixing up several different things.

Gates was never a great coder.

He was good at math, but not the best.

Nevertheless, a slightly second tier math guy could easily tower over ordinary CS students when it comes to theoretical computer science (i.e., algorithms). Doesn't mean the guy can actually code that well -- he might be very sloppy.

Doyne is not a billionaire. Whoever wrote that comment is an idiot. Old Tripos problems were very tricky and students trained for years in order to do them. They didn't have much practical use but only a very able person could succeed in the training. (Galton, supposedly a genius, but not that strong mathematically, had a nervous breakdown while training for the Tripos.)

Putnam, Olympiads, etc. are not perfectly predictive of math research ability. (In real life nothing is perfectly predictive.) However, as far as any single filter goes, they are the among best. Look at the list of Putnam (same goes with old Tripos) winners and you will see that a significant fraction (but well below 50 percent) made important contributions to math or physics. You would be hard pressed to assemble a group of college age people -- using any filter of your choice -- that would go on to contribute as much.

Does the person who claimed Ballmer had math talent have a cite? I have never heard those stories before and I am skeptical. BTW, reputedly Paul Allen had a higher score than Gates on the SAT -- 1600.

Anonymous said...

Anon

You are basically making the same points I was making in my posts.

I'm not claiming that success on math oympiads and the Putnam exam has 0 predictive value. But keep this in mind:there are a lot of research mathematicians out there who didn't go through the math Olympiad Putam route. I already mentioned two of them-Okounkov and Gaitsbory. Fields Medal winner John Stallings is another. Stallings was an English major at the University of Arkansas who was identified as possibly being a sleeper. So Princeton took a chance...and he went on to solve the higher demensional version of the Poincare Conjecture among other things. I haven't found any evidence that the great geometer-toplogist William Thurston was a Putnam Champ or Math Olympiad participant.

Your point about the difference between coding and theoretical understanding of algorithms is a valid point.

Well, if Doyne Farmer is a not worth a billion yet, he just hasn't figured out how steal-rig the game in his money grubbing favor- as well as James Simmon's and his army of mathematicians and rocket scientists over American Renaissace.

neil craig said...

Could be Bill was always out to prove he was his own man not just his father's son. Not unusual and if so it largely worked.

Anonymous said...

The cite for Ballmer was I think one of the first biographies of Gates written called appropriately "Gates" and the story about his (Ballmer's) days at Detroit Country Day come from some documentary I watched on I believe CNBC where his high school math teacher was interviewed, the teacher mentioned repeatedly how brilliant Ballmer was as a student. Prior to that most reports that I saw about Ballmer tended to seriously downplay his technical knowledge save that mention in the Gates biography I skimmed in a bookstore( I didn't buy the book ). In the book, Ballmer stated that Gates just made the top 100 (99th, I think.)in some national math competition ( I'm assuming it was the Math Olympiad, but I'm not 100% sure.) but that he finished something like 67th if memory serves.

Ballmer has also mentioned that he and Gates took the famous Harvard freshman economics course together. According to Ballmer, when he and Bill found out that attendance wasn't required and that you could simply do the work and the tests they both went that route. Both Gates and Ballmer got A's in the class, but Ballmer apparently got a 99% to Gates' 97%. I just looked up the book up on Amazon and it was published in 1993 originally, but a Touchstone paperback was written in 2002, which is what is available now. I have no idea what the name of the documentary was, but I'm sure somewhere there is a copy floating around. The anecdote about Gates excelling in CS at Harvard came from another biography written around the same time, called "Hard Drive" ( Thanks, Google Books! ). I hasten to add it was like 17 or 18 years ago, so don't flame if I didn't get every last detail right from memory. Actually check both books for the mention of Ballmer's math score relative to Gates, now that I think about it could be either one, I remember skimming through both of them around the same time.

Anonymous said...

John Stallings did not win the Fields Medal BTW, he won the Cole Prize in Algebra.

Anonymous said...

Anon

Not true. John Stallings and Stephen Smale won the Fields medal in 1965 for proving Poincare for n greater than five. He may have won the Cole prize for a toplogical proof of Grusko's theorem.

Update on Congressman Peter King:since his four hour hearing on jihadist in the US, there was a news story about young Iranian "American" men snooping around Camp Pendleton. Who voted to let these guys in? If you answered Peter King..you are correct. Peter King=anarcho-tyranny in action.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

"Ok, i can relate with that. But what does he do with the money?
Marry a plain looking employee,
and donate the money to build schools for blacks?"


I won't go there, knocking Gates's choice of a wife. For all we know she's not plain-looking, just unphotogenic (there's a difference, believe me), and her IQ and other qualities offset her 'plain looks.'

His decision to fund minority education is baffling, however. The largest share of unused potential is not in black schools, but in white schools; and it is white, middle class children who would show the most improvement if their lousy schools improved.

Say you're trying to get another 10% of American students to graduate from college. Which 10% do you aim to do that with, assuming the top 30% already graduate? Simply, you look to those in the 30-40% range. Those students are overwhelmingly not black.

Regarding the business acumen of Gates and Ballmer vs. Paul Allen, I would note that, including the money in his foundation, Gates's net worth is now 6-7 times greater than Allen's; and Ballmer's is slightly greater. Ballmer started with a far lower share of Microsoft than Allen did, and the Gates/Allen split of MS stock, after Allen quit to battle disease, was 64/36. Allen, relative to Gates, seems to have made a very poor businessman. Reportedly his goal early on was to charge market-will-bear prices for Microsoft product, whilke Bill was obsessed with increasing market share in the way the lead to Microsoft's monopoly in OS and office productivity software.

Anonymous said...

I hate to get into Yes/No shouting match, but Stallings never won the Fields Medal, I'm looking at the website right now, and he is not one of the four who won in 1966 or in any other year.

David said...

B. Gates's money is all going to Africa before or just after he dies, he has said.

So in being aloof from the usual "Washington business" (=paying protection money to the government and to its courtiers and adepts) perhaps he was trying to be an anti-racist crusader - minimizing the loot he would give the US government, which might spend some of it on an eeevviill white person, and maximizing the amount slated for the colored brethren of the Dark Continent.

The starry-eyed idealist is fwustrated again!

At least you got Vista, Billy. Plow another billion into "education."

Anonymous said...

Anon

I stand corrected. Stallings did not win the Fields medal. But he did s0lve he higher dimenasion version of Poincaire after Zeeman Smale crscked for n=5 and six. His solution was considered very inovative. Nonetheless, Stallings was a very elite world class mathematician. His speciality was geometric group theory.

I took toplogy from one of his former classmates at Princeton. He told the story bout how Stallings wen from Engish to Math. Very interesting story. Maybe I will retell it.