after an uproar about his consulting work for the government of Colombia, which was seeking the passage of a US trade treaty that Clinton, then a senator, opposed.
Hiring Penn demonstrates how seriously Microsoft is taking this fight, said Michael A. Cusumano, a business professor at MIT. “They’re pulling out all the stops to do whatever they can to halt Google’s advance, just as their competition did to them,”
Penn has had a long consulting relationship with Microsoft going back to the late 1990s. He is said to be close with both Steven A. Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, and Bill Gates; all three attended Harvard together in the mid-1970s. Frank Shaw, a spokesman for Microsoft, said the company’s willingness to go after competitors predated Penn’s arrival, pointing to a video criticising Google for scanning Gmail users’ messages so it could deliver related advertising.
Microsoft executives now concede that they did not effectively challenge the ads.
“If any of our competitors say things about us that we don’t think are true, we’re not going to sit on the sidelines,” he said. “We’re going to pop them.”