U.S. v Eldrick Tiger Woods

Jim Blasingame

- A Satire -

June 26, 2000
- Joel Klein, head of the U.S. Department of Justice's anti-trust division, today announced his office was looking into some of the professional practices of the Professional Golf Association (PGA) tour leader, Eldrick "Tiger" Woods.

Mr. Klein said "The Department of Justice is considering taking legal action against Mr. Woods as a result of his continued dominance of the professional golf tour."

It seems Woods, 24, the number one ranked professional golfer in the world, has perfected his game to a point which makes it virtually impossible for any other professional golfer to win when Woods participates in a tournament.

Klein cited a few of Woods' statistics which have caught the attention of his anti-trust shop:

• World ranking: Number 1, having played in only 11 tournaments in 2000, of which he won 5, more than doubling winning percentage (45%) of the closest competitor (20%). The other 9 players in the top 10 averaged over 15 tournaments.
• Scoring average: 68. Almost 1.5 strokes lower than the average of the other top ten players.
• Current year leading money winner: $4,149,731. The closest competitor is behind Woods by over $1.7 million.

Klein added that Woods is also the leader in eagles, birdies, greens in regulation, and total driving, plus "a number of other areas in which he dominates professional golf".

"Clearly," Klein said, "these are monopolistic numbers. And when they are combined with the disproportionate television coverage Mr. Woods receives, on behalf of the American golfing consumer, we are compelled to investigate."

Today's statement by Klein, which was read during a press conference attended by his boss, Attorney General Janet Reno, included references to a months long investigation into Woods' practices.

Klein stated that "For some time we have been observing the way Mr. Woods has monopolized not only professional golf, but also the television coverage of him when he is playing in a tournament. The oppressive manner in which Mr. Woods recently defeated a field of the world's best golfers in the U.S. Open by a record lead of 15 strokes, demonstrates his excessive use of golf capability not available to others. Plus Mr. Woods uses aggression in his manner of play and in his gesturing during certain shots, which intimidates competitors playing with him. We now feel Mr. Woods actions ultimately harm golf consumers, and therefore, put him in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act."

Klein's reference to television coverage seems to be the issue which started the investigation. A number of PGA competitors have expressed concern over the disparate amount of live television coverage Woods receives during tournaments. Such disparity diminishes the coverage of other players, and consequently, opportunities for consumers to see the logos of sponsors of those players. Recently, several sponsors have modified or withdrawn their contracts with a number of players, while Woods' sponsorship revenue continues to rise.

Seeing the success that Microsoft's competitors had when they complained to Klein's anti-trust division about Microsoft's alleged monopolistic practices (which led to a lengthy trial and ultimately a judge's ruling that Microsoft should be broken into at least two operating groups), the disgruntled pros apparently contacted Klein's office. The U.S. v Microsoft case is currently on appeal.

Klein declined to comment when asked if his department would use the Microsoft prosecution model should they proceed with legal steps against Woods. However, legal experts representing certain members of Woods' competitors, speaking on condition of anonymity, believe that the Microsoft model makes sense in the Woods case.

Indeed, this group leaked the existence of a white paper which proposes, among other things, that remedies the DOJ might pursue should follow the Microsoft strategy. Specifically, the white paper recommends that the DOJ should ask the court to require Woods to split his golf game into three separate parts:

1. Metal wood shots, 1 thru 5, which are typically used when long yardage is to be covered.
2. Iron shots, 1 thru 9, which are typically used for long, medium, and short yardage play.
3. Wedges and putter, which are used for what is called the "short game".

The group proposing this remedy says that Woods should be required to choose and use only one of these club groups throughout any tournament, and that his choice must be approved by the court at least two weeks prior to a tournament.

The group maintains that if Woods is so required, his superior ability in each of these areas would not unduly hinder his ability to compete. Specific examples cited in the white paper include the ability to hit his driver beyond all others on tour, his frequent use of a three wood to make putts from the fringe of greens, plus his ability to hit a 7 iron 200 yards, as he did in the recent U.S. Open. Apparently, the normal yardage for a 7 iron is approximately 150 yards.

Klein would not comment on the white paper's recommendations, but did say that his department's early offers to settle with Woods might include the following points:

1. Due to Woods' great length with all clubs, which produces an extreme advantage on par 5s, he would be allowed to attempt to reach only one par 5 in less than regulation (two shots instead of three) per round.

2. Woods would restrict his yardage off the tee to no more than the tour average driving distance. If his tee shot goes farther than the average, on the next shot, he must penalize himself by using one less club than the average pro would use from that distance. The government will provide Woods with tour average driving numbers and average club selections weekly, since these numbers change from week to week.

3. Woods' immense club head speed gives him an undue advantage when hitting out of the rough. When in the rough, he would not be allowed to advance his ball toward the hole, and instead, must chip out sideways, and then advance.

4. Woods would be required to share any swing thoughts or techniques he has discovered with other members of the PGA tour. Quarterly sharing sessions would be set up and monitored by the DOJ.

Klein said he, "feels certain that these concessions by Mr. Woods will simultaneously solve the television coverage inequities."

In responding to the allegations by the DOJ and PGA competitors, Woods' attorneys maintain "this is a ridiculous attempt to lower the standard of excellence in professional golf by certain touring professionals who aren't willing to dedicate themselves to their profession, as has our client." Woods refused to comment, and referred all questions to his attorneys.

Klein said, "Mr. Woods has demonstrated repeatedly that he has developed an aggressive strategy of using his monopoly position as the dominant professional golfer to win more tournaments than anyone else. But the damage his monopoly creates actually is compounded by a kind of 'bundling' of the consequential television coverage that follows his play."

Klein also said, "In using his superior position on the golf course and the television coverage he receives, which is clearly part of his monopolistic strategy, Mr. Woods robs the golfing consumer of the ability to see a representative cross-section of other touring pros, and diminishes the ability of these pros to acquire sponsors. At the DOJ, we see that as a clear violation of the anti-trust laws of this country."

Woods' attorneys refute these allegations, citing the groundswell of fan support Woods enjoys. One attorney, speaking on background, warned that "anyone who pursues excellence, works hard to achieve success, and then leverages that excellence and hard work to take advantage of the rewards available in a presumably capitalistic economy, should be prepared for a visit from Mr. Klein and the wrath of the United States Department Of Justice."

No court dates have been set by the DOJ, and a Woods' spokesperson said he would continue his schedule as planned. However, those close to him have said that if the DOJ action becomes a Federal case, as happened to Microsoft, Woods would likely end his professional golf career.

Stocks of Woods' major sponsors were off this week by an average of 20% across the board on the DOJ announcement.

June 30, 2000
- General Electric announced today that it is discontinuing the funding of research on its perpetual engine project (code name, PE). One G.E. spokesperson said the company projects the PE project would "revolutionize the world in virtually all areas, creating unprecedented success for the company. However, with the current attitude by our government concerning extreme success, we have decided to postpone further developments of the PE project."

Industry sources estimate that the $5 billion PE project, which is very close to completion, could create a market share position for G.E. that would resemble Microsoft's, a scenario which has now become part of corporate America's risk management planning which, in effect says, "don't be too successful."

One industry expert speculated that an alternative for GE would be to develop and distribute the heretofore mythical device outside of the United States.

June 30, 2000
- Pfizer announced this week that it was discontinuing its work on a cure for all cancers. Pfizer is known to be close to significant breakthroughs on a number of cancer cures, including one which will target all cancers. The company says it regrets having to make this decision, but it is successful enough with existing products, and doesn't want to risk anti-trust accusations should a world class innovation create what might be deemed to be a monopoly.

July 5, 2000
- In an unprecedented move, Joel Klein, head of the U.S. Department of Justice's anti-trust division, announced the creation of an "anti-anti-trust division". Klein stated that this division will investigate companies that withhold products, developments, services, and opportunities from the marketplace.

"It has come to our attention that certain firms are circumventing the oversight process of the DOJ by simply not producing various new developments and products," Klein said. This new division of the DOJ will be "actively looking into cases where companies withhold from the American consumer," Klein added, "and we will prosecute any offenders under a bill currently being proposed in Congress called the Passive/Aggressive Act."

The Passive/Aggressive Act, known on capital hill as the "I've got a headache" bill, would prohibit companies from using passive/aggressive practices in withholding products and services from the market.

July 4, 2005
- Officials of Australia's leading financial city are expressing excitement about the turn of events surrounding the mass exodus of corporations from the United States to Australia. In the past five years, 25 of the NYSE's firms have relocated their headquarters here, and five more are on tap to relocate down under later this year.

One official said, "the blokes just like our laissez faire attitude about success down here."

This corporate phenomenon is believed to have begun when Microsoft moved here in 2002 and discontinued all U.S. operations and sales. One unfortunate by-product of the moves has been the real estate deflation that has occurred in New York City and other major U.S. markets. Property values there have been cut in half as a result of the mass exodus.

Write this on a rock... Innovations and market forces are moving at a pace only dreamed of a very short while ago. In trying to regulate new economy practices with old economy laws and methods, governments should subscribe to the principal ethic of the medical profession's Hippocratic oath: First, do no harm.


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