updated 5/3/2004 12:47:12 PM ET 2004-05-03T16:47:12

The world's richest man is out $800,000 for violating federal rules by making a large investment in a pharmaceutical company.

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Bill Gates, the billionaire chairman of Microsoft Corp., agreed to the civil penalty for the violation arising from his 2002 acquisition of more than $50 million in Icos Corp. securities. (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)

The agreement settles a Justice Department lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Washington contending Gates should have complied with investment notification rules because he intended to participate in the company's business decisions.

Federal law imposes notification and waiting period requirements on certain individuals and companies before they can complete acquisitions of stock or assets worth more than $50 million. The maximum penalty is $11,000 for each day in violation.

The case is unrelated to Microsoft or the Justice Department's antitrust case involving the software giant. Icos is headquartered in Bothell, Wash.

Gates, with a fortune estimated at $46.6 billion, was listed in February as the richest person in the world by Forbes magazine for the 10th straight year.

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