Letter from Bob Herbold to Dow Jones & Company
October 22, 1999
Mr. Neal Lipschutz
Senior Editor, Americas
Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Harborside Financial Center
>800 Plaza Two
Jersey City, NJ 07311-1199
Dear Mr. Lipschutz:
As a customer of Dow Jones Interactive Publishing and a frequent subject of Dow Jones News stories, I am writing to express Microsoft’s grave concern over the false, inaccurate, and misleading information contained in an October 20 th Dow Jones News article entitled
“Microsoft Contracts Have Unusual Antitrust Breakup Clause.”
Simply put, the entire premise of the article is false. As we told your reporter before and after his article appeared, we are not aware of any Microsoft contract that contains the clause cited by your reporter, or any similar clause related to the hypothetical antitrust breakup of the company.
More troubling, Microsoft has learned that the information upon which the inaccurate article was based has dubious origins, which are beneath the standards of any news organization and raise serious questions about the integrity of your relationships with your customers.
We now know why your reporter refused to provide us with any information about the alleged contract upon which he based his entire inaccurate and misleading story. Unbelievably, the document your reporter relied upon was not a contract at all — it was a draft contract that was still under negotiation between Microsoft and your own company, Dow Jones & Company. Furthermore, the language your reporter cited was added to the contract by a Dow Jones attorney and had been specifically rejected by Microsoft before we were ever contacted about this story. Compare those facts with the lead sentence in your article:
“This time, Microsoft Corp.’s lawyers may have gone too far.”
This story should never have been written, because there is no factual basis for its claims.
Equally troubling is the fact that a draft legal document being confidentially negotiated between Microsoft and Dow Jones & Company was given by someone in your business division to a reporter in your news division, apparently with the goal of manufacturing a negative story against Microsoft. I hope you would agree that this behavior raises serious ethical concerns — for every one of your customers or potential customers.
Obviously, we are deeply troubled by the impact of this story, and the impact of your company’s behavior on our ongoing customer relationship. This inaccurate story has already generated stories in The Wall Street Journal and other sources in this country and in Europe. In our view, the stunning sequence of events that created this story call into question your coverage of Microsoft, which has frequently relied upon unsourced information.
With all due respect, we are requesting a public retraction of your story, an apology to Microsoft and your subscribers, and an explanation of how this unfortunate incident ever happened. Under the circumstances, we are suspending our current contract negotiations with Dow Jones & Company until we can resolve this matter.
I look forward to hearing from you on how we can resolve this serious issue.
Robert J. Herbold
Executive Vice President
Chief Operating Officer