Justice's anti-trust case: Oracle bid less than rivals to win business


The Justice Department has accused Oracle of withholding documents that support its accusations of anti-trust behaviour by showing that the supplier offered customers lower prices in competitive bids against SAP and PeopleSoft in order to win business.

Oracle had refused to turn over some customer 'discount' forms that it said were "among the most important evidence in the investigation", according to the Justice Department. These apparently reveal that Oracle discounts its software when competing with PeopleSoft and SAP.

The Justice Department says this proves that Oracle's $9.4 billion takeover of PeopleSoft would mean higher prices for applications. "The discount forms are among the most direct evidence that the presence of PeopleSoft in the marketplace directly affects the prices and features of (Oracle's) software", the department said in a court brief. "There is no reasonable basis for the defendant to continue to refuse production of these forms".

Oracle said lawyers for the department had not properly requested the forms and criticized them for "skirting the normal discovery process." The department admitted it had agreed to a request by Oracle early in the investigation to "defer production of most of these forms", but said that it has now concluded that the documents will be important to the case, and it still has the right to demand them.

"These forms are unquestionably relevant to the matter now before the court", the government said. "They reveal that the defendant can and does engage in price discrimination and that the identity of defendant's competitor[s] in a deal often affects the level of discount offered to the customer", the papers said.

Oracle has also demanded that the Justice Department reveals in advance the names of customers who will testify against the deal. Oracle's lawyers said the department wasn't planning to disclose which customers would testify until late May, but that they need to know by 22nd March. "It is critical that Oracle have a fair chance to take discovery of such customers", Oracle's attorneys said.

Meanwhile both sides have asked for a 21st June trial date. Before that, the European Commission will finally have its say when it issues its twice delayed ruling on the bid on 11th May.


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