SAN FRANCISCO—U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker Friday made it clear that that he wouldnt hesitate to unseal confidential documents, especially if some of those documents addressed key points in his decision in the Oracle antitrust trial.
A gaggle of high technology companies that had to offer up testimony and confidential documents in the Oracle Corp. antitrust trial pleaded with Walker not to release some of the more sensitive material into the public record.
Lawyers for Accenture, Automatic Data Processing Inc., Bearing Point, Cap Gemini, Deloitte Consulting, Ford Motor Co., Fidelity Investments, IBM, Lawson Software Inc., Microsoft Corp., PeopleSoft Inc., Target Corp., Nextel Communications Inc. and Verizon Corp. each took their turn before Judge Walker asking him not to unseal their records.
The 70 documents reviewed Friday were among the nearly 1,000 exhibits that were presented in the U.S. Justice departments antitrust suite that seeks to block Oracles $7.7 billion hostile buyout of PeopleSoft.
Walker served notice that he would unseal documents if he was convinced that that doing so wouldnt materially harm the companies business prospects. It was essential that documents that supported his eventual decision should included in the public record, he said.
However, that doesnt necessarily mean that any of these documents will be released to the public soon. He said he may allow some documents to remain sealed if he doesnt use them to support his decision. He told the attorneys for both sides that they could request access to sealed documents after he renders his decision if they decide to file appeals.
Lead Oracle attorney Daniel Wall said Walker had indicated that he would hold Fridays hearing to resolve to resolve the confidentiality questions before he rendered his decision. However, the scheduling of todays hearing shouldnt be taken as an indication that a decision is imminent, Wall said.
Court observers believe it will be the end of the month at the earliest before Walker releases his decision.
A media attorney, Erica Craven of the San Francisco law firm of Levy, Ram and Olsen, LLP, asked Walker to keep the publics “common law right to access” legal documents in an important case as the Oracle antitrust case.
Craven, who was representing several newspapers such as the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, and the Contra Costa Times, said the court shouldnt keep records sealed based on the “speculation of what may happen” if they are made public.
However, Walker said he could not “willy-nilly open up” documents to public access. He said he had to weigh the competing interests of the companies wishing to keep proprietary information private with the public desire to see the documents.