Bill Gates reveals his biggest mistake in handling antitrust scrutiny, and says today’s tech CEOs — particularly Amazon’s Jeff Bezos — are better prepared (MSFT, AMZN)

Bill Gates

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Bill Gates says today’s tech CEOs have learned from his errors when it comes to antitrust scrutiny. 

The Microsoft cofounder addressed antitrust issues during a conversation with GeekWire cofounder Todd Bishop at the GeekWire Summit on Thursday, according to CNBC. He criticized the government’s approach to examining Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google and addressed his own history with an antitrust investigation. 

“Certainly the scrutiny is important. These companies are shaping communications, commerce — and the politicians have to think of, ‘OK, what are the rules there?'” Gates said, according to CNBC. “I think it’s kind of unfortunate that they’re grouping the companies together, because there are so many different issues.”

Gates noted how Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google operate in varying industries and each face their own set of concerns around issues like social media or ecommerce, CNBC reported.

But Gates also said that executives at those companies, in particular Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, have taken a different approach to dealing with regulators than he did in Microsoft’s early years.

He said his “main mistake” was that he failed to develop relationships in Washington.

“I think the main mistake I made, which was not realizing how important it would be to develop relationships in Washington, be engaged there,” Gates said, according to CNBC. “These companies are not making the same mistake that I made. They have lots of people. Jeff even has a nice house in Washington, D.C.”

He added: “They may even be making some other mistakes. But everybody saw what I did and knows better now.”

Gates is familiar with antitrust scrutiny given Microsoft’s history. In 1998, Gates appeared before Congress in a four-hour hearing where he argued that the government couldn’t restrict innovation and that Microsoft was leading the charge in making the US more high-tech. 

But shortly after the hearing, the Department of Justice sued Microsoft, alleging it had violated the Sherman Antitrust Act, an 1890 law prohibiting behavior that attempts to monopolize a market. In Microsoft’s case, the DOJ was examining Microsoft’s stranglehold on the software industry — it had been forcing PC manufacturers to make Internet Explorer the default browser on their computers.

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When Gates gave his deposition for the suit, he was called “evasive and nonresponsive,” as a CNET report described it at the time, so much so that the federal judge hearing the case laughed aloud in court when listening to Gates’ answers.

Though the judge initially ruled that Microsoft should be broken up, the company appealed the decision and eventually reached a settlement with the court. The case ultimately led to Gates’ retirement in 2000. 

SEE ALSO: The big tech antitrust hearing had echoes of Bill Gates’ and Microsoft’s landmark court battle 22 years ago. Here’s why the government scrutinized Gates and how it played out for the company.

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Source:: Business Insider – Tech

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