Oracle And Government Seek June 21 Trial Date

Both sides are asking for the date to resolve the antitrust lawsuit blocking Oracle's hostile takeover bid for PeopleSoft.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Oracle Corp. and the Department of Justice are seeking a June 21 trial date to resolve an antitrust lawsuit blocking the business software maker's $9.4 billion hostile bid for rival PeopleSoft Inc.

If U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker agrees to the requested date, the trial probably will last until late July, based on a timetable that the two adversaries jointly filed late Monday.

Oracle's $26-per-share offer for PeopleSoft is scheduled to expire June 25, but the offer can be easily extended. Oracle already has done so eight times since it began its pursuit of PeopleSoft nine months ago.

Pleasanton-based PeopleSoft has steadfastly repelled Oracle's advances and the federal government fortified the resistance last month by filing an antitrust suit to block the proposed deal. Redwood Shores-based Oracle has vowed to prove the government wrong so it can snap up PeopleSoft.

Lawyers for Oracle and the Justice Department estimate each side will need two weeks to present its case. The evidence from each side will include testimony from up to 25 witnesses, excluding experts, according to the ground rules submitted to Walker.

The court papers lay out the framework for a high-profile case likely to determine the competitive landscape in the $20 billion market for business applications software--the computer coding that automates a wide range of administrative jobs.

Although it's the world's second-largest software company, Oracle still lags far behind Germany-based SAP in the business applications field--a gap that would be closed with the purchase of PeopleSoft, which generates about $2 billion in annual sales.

The federal government argues a PeopleSoft takeover would give too much power to Oracle and SAP, harming the companies, government agencies, and universities dependent on complex business-applications systems.

Oracle contends the government is defining the market too narrowly by underestimating the influence of specialty software makers and discounting the chances Microsoft Corp.--the world's largest software maker--will enter the market.

In court papers, Oracle asserts Microsoft is spending $10 billion to become a bigger player in business applications, but the Justice Department says its eight-month investigation found no evidence of a major Microsoft push.

Microsoft executives almost certainly will be deposed in the evidence-gathering period known as discovery, said Daniel Wall, a San Francisco attorney representing Oracle. He predicted that SAP and many well-known companies that are PeopleSoft customers also are likely to be deposed by Oracle or the government.

The Justice Department already has contacted more than 100 people during the investigation that led to the antitrust suit, and obtained sworn declarations from many of them, according to Monday's court papers.

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