DOJ, Oracle Ready Witness Lists for Trial on Takeover

Finalized lists of as many as 25 witnesses each are due May 18 as June trial nears; Justice Department has weighted its early list with PeopleSoft customers.

For a battle thats dragged on for nearly a year, next months trial is looming as perhaps an end to the question: Will Oracle Corp. prove successful in its $9.4 billion hostile takeover bid of rival PeopleSoft Inc.?

If its up to the U.S. Department of Justice, Oracle wont prevail.

Both Oracle and the Justice Department are readying preliminary witness lists as they work to hone their courtroom strategies. The finalized lists are due May 18, according to news reports.

Oracle, of Redwood Shores, Calif., is expected to face off with the Justice Department in early June to defend its bid for PeopleSoft.

The Justice Department is seeking a federal injunction to block the deal, which it says would be bad for competition in the upper echelons of the software industry—and ultimately bad for consumers, who it says would face higher prices, less choice and less innovation.

The judge overseeing the case, set for trial June 7 in a San Francisco court, ruled earlier this year that witnesses for both sides will be limited to 25 individuals. Both the Justice Department and Oracle are able to select that number of preliminary witnesses—and are required to share the information with one another.

As the sides work to sculpt their trial strategies, each will have the opportunity to swap out five of those early witnesses for new ones.

According to news reports, the Justice Department has weighted its early witness list with PeopleSoft customers, while Oracle will likely focus on witnesses that can back up its definition of competition.

In its initial filing against Oracle, the Justice Department defined competition among tier-one enterprise resource planning (ERP) software developers as being among three major vendors: Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP AG.

Oracle countered that by saying that the market is much larger and supports many more players, including the likes of Lawson Software Inc., SSA Global and Microsoft Corp.

SAP, of Waldorf, Germany, said it supports Oracles view of the market, while Microsoft has provided a statement to the Justice Department saying it has no intentions of competing on the larger ERP front for at least two years—presumably out of range for the purposes of the trial.

Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., currently provides ERP software for the small and midsized business sector.

While the Justice Department has not revealed its preliminary witness list, it is expected to call some Oracle executives, according to news reports, as well as some of the 38 states that have joined its antitrust suit against Oracle.

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