Microsoft has been fined by the European Commission. Getty Images
Jaron Lanier is a “partner architect” at Microsoft but he doesn’t speak for the software company. As the scientist, composer and author explained to an audience at The Economist’s Technology Frontiers conference on Tuesday, what he says “probably horrifies any number of individuals within the company”.
Even so, in retrospect, it his hard not to read some of his remarks differently, in the light of the European Commission’s €561m fine for Microsoft, confirmed on Wednesday, for breaching a high-profile competition agreement with the European Union.
In Jo Nesbo’s thriller Headhunters, “king of the heap” search consultant Roger Brown has to fund his extravagant lifestyle by stealing art from the walls of candidates’ homes while his colleagues are interviewing them.
There are plenty of interesting ironies raised by the news that investment banks are charging asset managers up to $20,000 an hour for access to chief executives, often unbeknown to the executives themselves.
One is that chief executives themselves are no strangers to “cash for access”. It’s a perennial political “scandal” that big corporate donors to political parties get to rub shoulders with the prime minister or his cabinet at private parties and dinners. The last time such a hoo-ha erupted, in 2012, the FT wrote that prominent City figures were “bemused at the outrage” surrounding the affair, describing it as “a healthy part of the democratic process”. One said:
Groupon. Getty Images
Andrew Mason should have been fired as chief executive of Groupon a long time ago. The other pair of insiders that control Groupon should also take responsibility for the disaster of the online coupon company.
Mr Mason’s departure leaves his partners Eric Lefkofsy and Brad Keywell firmly in charge, since they control a majority of the voting shares. Never was the principle of buyer beware more apposite than in Groupon’s dual voting structure.