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5/17/2002
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IT Confidential

Companies that don't respond to FERC in time are subject to enforcement; they may be stripped of the right to sell energy at market rates

Last week was one of those weeks for Computer Associates. First, the software company admitted the Securities & Exchange Commission has widened its probe into CA's finances by subpoenaing third parties and is possibly looking into the way CA records software-maintenance revenue. Then, CA made a modest (for it) acquisition--about $10 million for Intraware, a technology asset-management software company. Finally, CA reported finances for its fourth quarter and fiscal year ended March 31. For the quarter, revenue was $772 million, up a respectable 5.8% from $730 million in the fourth quarter a year ago; net loss for the quarter was $238 million, 42% better than the previous quarter's $410 million loss. For the year, however, revenue was off--$3 billion in 2002, down 29% from last year's $4.2 billion; net loss for the year of $1.1 billion was 46% worse than it was last year. Peter Goldmacher, financial analyst at Merrill Lynch, says CA improved the bottom line in the quarter when it laid off salespeople and cut its marketing budget. Any chance the SEC investigation will lead to changes in CA's management team? Maybe, says Goldmacher, "if the SEC pursues criminal charges."

It also was one of those weeks for VeriSign, the domain-name registrar that's been under scrutiny recently for a marketing campaign that gives new meaning to the phrase, "The devil is in the details." Last week, a judge ordered VeriSign to stop sending "domain-name-expiration notices" to customers of BulkRegister, a VeriSign rival that had sought an injunction in a Baltimore court. The judge said there was strong evidence that VeriSign's campaign, which involves sending what appear to be invoices to domain-name users of other companies that imply their names are about to expire (the small print on the back informs them otherwise), was deceptive. "The injunction against VeriSign is a definite victory for millions of domain-name holders and fellow members of the domain industry," said BulkRegister's CEO Tom Cunningham in a statement, taking the high road in an industry known for its subterranean ways. "BulkRegister is committed to seeing this matter resolved on behalf of our customers as well as the domain-name community at large."

I missed this one a couple of weeks ago, but it's too good to pass up. Mercury Interactive, the Sunnyvale, Calif., performance-management software vendor, appointed a new CIO. His name is Charles Schwab, and he comes to Mercury from a long career in technology in the financial-services industry, including stints at American Express, JPMorgan Chase, Lehman Brothers, UBS PaineWebber, and--you guessed it--Charles Schwab.

E-mail management vendor KVS says it's been peppered recently with urgent requests from energy companies desperate to comply with a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission edict to turn over by May 22 a wide array of executive communications related to their business dealings with Enron. No fewer than 14 energy firms have contacted KVS in the past few weeks, including eight in a two-day period last week. The energy companies lack the tools necessary to search E-mails at the level of detail requested by the FERC, KVS says, and most of the firms are looking at the E-mail histories of between 100 and 500 users. At a cost of $35 to $40 per user, KVS's Enterprise Vault tool lets companies search through Microsoft Exchange E-mail archives based on message attributes (sender, recipient, date and time, subject, etc.), message text, or attachment contents. KVS has seen a spike in demand lately for its E-mail archiving and search-and-retrieval technologies, says Mary Kay Roberto, the vendor's North American VP, so it wasn't surprised to hear from energy companies associated with Enron. But, she says, "I'm surprised by how little time they have to respond."

Search my E-mail? I can't even keep up with it! I hate that little box that pops up and says "You have too many E-mail messages. You must delete some before you can send or reply ... " Besides, if I searched my E-mail, I'd mostly come up with solicitations for making money, finding lost loved ones, or increasing my sex appeal. But I'm sure I'd find your industry tip, sent to jsoat@cmp.com or phoned in at 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about CA's financial woes or E-mails to Enron, meet me at InformationWeek.com's Listening Post: informationweek.com/forum/johnsoat.

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