Oracle cannot seem to stay out of litigation—whether it's with other companies or its own employees.
A few days after losing a key battle to Google in a six-year-long software copyright infringement lawsuit, the world's largest database maker found itself in court again, this time facing legal action by a former employee who claimed wrongful discharge because she wouldn't help rearrange the accounting books.
Former Oracle Senior Finance Manager Svetlana Blackburn, who worked in the company's cloud business division for about a year until she was fired last Oct. 15, filed suit June 1 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, claiming she was terminated in retaliation for citing—and then complaining about—improper accounting practices in the company's cloud services business.
Oracle's stock price fell about 2.6 percent to $39.23 in after-hours trading June 2, probably due—at least in part—to the lawsuit.
In its last several quarterly financial reports, Oracle has shown increases in its cloud software and services business while some of its other divisions have faltered.
Blackburn is suing Oracle for undisclosed punitive damages and a ruling preventing the company from retaliating against other objectors.
Blackburn accused upper management members of trying to push her to "fit square data into round holes" to make Oracle Cloud Services' results look better, the complaint said.
She also said that Oracle was looking for "a team player who would blindly generate financial reports using improper bases in order to justify the bottom lines that her superiors demanded to see."
Apparently, Oracle managers seemed at first to be happy with Blackburn's work, giving her a positive performance review in August 2015. However, in September they "charted a course that veered from legal, ethical and company standards," the complaint said. Blackburn was then fired on Oct. 15, after she "continued to resist and warn of the accounting improprieties," according to the complaint.
"We are confident that all our cloud accounting is proper and correct. This former employee worked at Oracle for less than a year and did not work in the accounting group. She was terminated for poor performance and we intend to sue her for malicious prosecution," Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger said in an email to eWEEK.
In her complaint, Blackburn said her superiors instructed her "to add millions of dollars in accruals to financial reports, with no concrete or foreseeable billing to support the numbers, an act that Plaintiff warned was improper and suspect accounting." Blackburn said she warned her supervisor she would blow the whistle if ordered to continue in the same manner.
Blackburn's lawsuit accuses Oracle of violating the anti-retaliation provisions of the federal Sarbanes-Oxley corporate governance and Dodd-Frank financial reform laws. It seeks punitive damages, double back pay and other remedies.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act protects employees from discrimination after they make disclosures under Sarbanes-Oxley.