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Company News: States seek extended oversight for Microsoft

WASHINGTON – Four states concerned about Microsoft Corp.‘s market power are pressing a federal court to extend by five years oversight of the software company that began in 2002 as part of a landmark antitrust settlement.

The request, filed late Thursday, represents a reversal for New York, Maryland, Louisiana and Florida. In August, the group submitted court papers, along with the Justice Department, that said the consent decree had achieved its goal of safeguarding competition in certain software markets.

In their newest filing, however, the states said that while “competitive developments in the industry today are encouraging, whether they have enough traction to enhance long-term competition” in the market for computer operating systems “is uncertain.”

Microsoft spokesman Jack Evans said there is no need for further oversight of the company’s business. “The consent decree has served its purpose,” he said.

A Virginia man whose pickup caught fire last year is suing Ford Motor Co. for damages over a faulty cruise control switch that has led to engine fires and millions of recalled vehicles.

Gary Medrano, of Woodbridge, Va., filed the lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, saying his 2000 Ford F-150 XLT caught fire in October 2006 because of problems with the cruise control switch. The suit seeks class-action certification.

The 10-count complaint does not seek a specific amount of damages, but is asking for both compensatory and punitive damages.

Ford spokeswoman Kristen Kinley said the company was reviewing the lawsuit, but could not comment on the case.

A division of New York-based Jones Apparel Group Inc. will close its distribution operations in Berkeley County, S.C., early next year, laying off nearly 300 workers, the company said Friday.

The Hanahan distribution center was opened in 2000 by McNaughton Apparel Group, which was bought in 2001 by Jones Apparel Group. Jones Apparel later built a second facility.

The company has notified the state Employment Security Commission that it plans to close both of its Hanahan warehouses, about 300,000 square feet each.

The Hanahan facilities will close by Jan. 31, affecting 286 workers, Sharon Stern, a Jones Apparel spokeswoman, said Friday.

The company is known for brands such as Jones New York, Nine West, Anne Klein and Gloria Vanderbilt. It completed the sale of its high-end department store chain, Barneys New York, to a Dubai-based investment company last month.