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Janet Steiger, 64; at FTC, She Pushed Antitrust Probe of Microsoft

April 07, 2004|From a Times Staff Writer

Janet Steiger, who pushed the first antitrust investigation of Microsoft Corp. as head of the Federal Trade Commission, has died. She was 64.

Steiger, the widow of Rep. William A. Steiger (R-Wis.), died Saturday at her sister's home in Fort Myers, Fla., of an intestinal infection after suffering from lung cancer.

During her tenure as FTC chairman from 1989 to 1995, Steiger helped restore confidence inside and outside the agency. Her vote to send the Microsoft case to the U.S. Justice Department, after the commission had deadlocked twice, was one example of her decisive management and political skills.

After the FTC closed its Microsoft investigation, the Justice Department pursued the case and reached a settlement in 1994 over the company's licensing practices for operating software. Four years later, the Justice Department filed its landmark antitrust case, which led to court findings that Microsoft had illegally protected its Windows monopoly.

Under Steiger's leadership, the FTC joined the Justice Department in 1992 in issuing guidelines for analysis of horizontal mergers and statements on antitrust policy in healthcare and licensing intellectual property.

She also led the FTC's battle against tobacco companies' use of cartoon characters like Joe Camel to appeal to young people, took on credit repair clinics and began efforts to thwart telephone solicitation that evolved into the "do not call" list.

Steiger was appointed to head the FTC by former President George H.W. Bush, a close friend of her husband -- who died in 1978 -- and the godfather of her son.

She stayed on as chairman under Democratic President Clinton from 1993 to 1995, and then remained a commission member for two more years.

She was named to federal posts by two Republican and two Democratic presidents. President Carter named her to a commission investigating the cause of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant accident and later to the U.S. Postal Rate Commission. President Reagan made her head of the commission, and she remained in the post until moving to the FTC.

A native of Oshkosh and a graduate of Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., the former Janet Dempsey was a Fulbright scholar concentrating on medieval literature at the University of Reading in England. She later studied at the University of Wisconsin and was a student teacher before marrying Steiger in 1963.

In 1965, she published the book "Law Enforcement and Juvenile Justice in Wisconsin," and in 1978 was coauthor of "To Light One Candle: A Handbook on Organizing, Funding and Maintaining Public Service Projects."

Steiger is survived by her son, Bill, and sister, Ann Dempsey.

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