Microsoft Settles Suits in Minnesota, Vermont

Microsoft ( MSFT) continued to sweep away years of accumulated legal problems Thursday, announcing settlements of class action suits in Minnesota and Vermont.

Microsoft will pay up to $241.4 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought by Minnesota computer users who claimed the software company overcharged them. The settlement includes $174.5 million in computer equipment vouchers for consumers, and caps attorneys fees at $59.4 million, the Associated Press reported.

A similar suit in Vermont will result in the issuance of up to $9.7 million in vouchers to consumers.

"We're pleased by the opportunity to help schools all across Vermont get the computers and software they need," said Brad Smith, general counsel for Microsoft. "This settlement allows us to focus on the future and building great software, and avoids the cost and uncertainty of litigation."

On Wednesday a federal appeals court rejected an effort by Massachusetts and two industry groups to overturn the company's antitrust settlement with the Justice Department. Including Thursday's actions, Microsoft has now settled suits with 14 states plus the District of Columbia.

The settlements are far more significant than the amount of cash would indicate. Once Microsoft is reasonably sure that no major legal judgments are lurking in the woods, it can proceed to resolve the so-called problem of having far too much cash on hand.

With $56.4 billion in cash plus $15.2 billion in strategic investments, Microsoft has drawn the ire of investors who say the company should share the wealth with them rather than register paltry single-digit returns on that stash. The company is expected to announce its plan to solve the Midas-like crisis at an analysts meeting in late July -- a massive stock buyback or dividend increase are reportedly two possibilities.

In an overall rough day for equities, Microsoft stock rose 7 cents, or 0.3%, to $28.63 in Thursday's regular session; after hours, the stock was recently down 8 cents, or 0.2%, to $28.55.

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