Assistant Attorney General Joel Klein, who lead the government's antitrust case against
, said Tuesday that he would leave the
Department of Justice
at the month's end.
Klein, who became the government's antitrust chief on July 1997, won a federal judge's
ruling June 7 that Microsoft should be split in two for violating antitrust laws. The case, far and away his most high-profile battle, is on appeal to the
U.S. Supreme Court
"The time has come to seek out new challenges," Klein said in a statement. "I have done what I set out to do here, and our work is on the right track." He did not disclose his future plans.
Since he won the verdict against Microsoft, Klein has asked the Supreme Court to hear the company's appeal immediately, skipping a review by the
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
, which has ruled in the software company's favor in a similar previous case. Should the appeal go to the high court, it would be argued for the government by the U.S. solicitor general, not by Klein.
Klein "will be remembered for many remarkable decisions and actions taken under his leadership, and particularly for the courage and vision he demonstrated in the Microsoft antitrust case," Attorney General Tom Miller of Iowa, a leader of the 19-state working group of states in the Microsoft case, said in a statement.
Many of Klein's top cases have been resolved or are now out of his hands.
, the second- and third-largest U.S. long-distance operators,
withdrew their merger plans in July after the Justice Department filed suit to block the deal. The government rested its case against
last month, and U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones is set to rule in late October. And a case against
, which is owned by
, will not open until next year.
Last week, Klein indicated a change of tone in U.S. policy toward increasingly commonplace cross-border mergers. He told a group of lawyers, economists and antitrust officials at the
European Union's Merger Task Force
that the formation of an international group to scrutinize such deals might relieve political friction and reduce the regulatory burden on merging companies generated by increasingly large and complex deals.
Klein, 53, joined the Justice Department in 1995. Before that, he was deputy counsel to
A. Douglas Malemed, Klein's deputy, will become acting assistant attorney general. He has worked on the Microsoft case, as well as appellate litigation, international activities and telecommunications policy, according to his government biography. Like Klein, he spent more than two decades in private practice in Washington before joining the Justice Department. He is one year older than Klein.
"Joel Klein has been a champion for America's consumers," Attorney General Janet Reno said. "He has fought tirelessly for marketplace competition, and Americans have enjoyed better products, more choices, and lower prices as a result."
All federal political appointees typically submit their resignations after a presidential election, leaving the new administration to decide which resignations to accept. When he took office on Jan. 20, 1992, President Clinton in his inaugural address thanked and dismissed many such federal employees. Clinton, a Democrat, took office after 12 years of Republican rule.
Microsoft had no immediate comment.