Gates Gets Fined

Gretchen Gallen
REDMOND, Wash – Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates paid the piper this week after admitting to violating antitrust regulations in the case of two stock purchases, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday.

Gates has agreed to pay civil penalties totaling $800,000 at the tail end of an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission over charges that he did not notify antitrust officials before purchasing stock in trash hauling company Republic Services in 2001 and impotence drug maker ICOS in 2002. Gates reportedly purchased more than $50 million worth of ICOS stock.

Whenever stock holdings exceed 10 percent, there is a requirement to file an antitrust notification, according to the HSR (Hart-Scott-Rodino) Act.

Federal law requires a notification and waiting period for stock purchases made by certain individuals and companies in excess of $50 million. The maximum penalty is $11,000 for each day in violation.

The transaction was carried out through Gates' private investment fund, Cascade Investment.

The Republic Services stock purchase did not catch the FTC's eye until several months after Gates issued a corrective filing, but then according to reports, he and his investment firm repeated the infraction several months later. At that point the FTC filed charges and went after penalties.

Gates has long argued that the incident was an oversight and that he was unaware of the law requirement to report the stock purchases.