What goes around comes around. Such might be said of the perfect irony in Oracle Corp. announcing its membership in the Association for Competitive Technology Tuesday—an organization the database giant once felt compelled to spy on.
In 2000, during the height of the Microsoft Corp. antitrust trial, Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle saw fit to hire an elite private investigation firm to spy on the Washington headquarters of ACT, which many considered to be an association founded and cultivated solely to protect Microsofts interests in Washington.
Larry Ellison, Oracles chairman and a bitter rival to Microsoft, admitted to hiring Washington-based Investigation Group International (IGI) to get dirt on ACT, a national education and advocacy group for the technology industry, including attempting to pay off the organizations janitorial staff for access to ACTs trash. The scandal quickly became known as Trashgate, aptly named as IGIs chairman, Terry Lenzner, served as assistant chief counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee during a much larger Washington scandal.
At the time of the Trashgate scandal, Jonathan Zuck, ACTs president, expressed outrage to this reporter and in public statements. During the scandal, Zuck issued the following as part of a statement: “Im shocked and saddened that one of the leaders of the community I represent has stooped so low in order to forward its political agenda. Clearly, as ACTs membership continues to grow into the thousands of companies and Oracles political allies are diminishing, Oracle found itself compelled to abandon the substantive debate in favor of smear campaigns and mudslinging.”
And Ellison, in public appearances and interviews, maintained that his company had done no wrong. “All we did was to try to take information that was hidden and bring it into the light; I dont think thats arrogance. Thats a public service,” he said. In addition, Ellison at the time was quoted as saying: “Left undisclosed, these Microsoft front groups could have improperly influenced one of the most important antitrust cases in U.S. history.”
However, things have come full circle. The technology industry is banding together like never before. Sun Microsystems Inc. and Microsoft, once bitter enemies, have agreed to a major settlement and an agreement to collaborate for the next 10 years.
And Oracle has joined ACT. Zuck, who once blasted the Oracle way, responded to an eWEEK query on the irony of Oracles membership: “You know Ive always believed that the coalitions around the trial were the anomalies. This is really a return to normalcy.”
And in a statement on the issue, Oracle said: “ACT has been a tireless champion for a consistent, principled approach to information technology policy,” said Ken Glueck, vice president of Oracle. “Despite our past disagreements, we are proud to be ACT members and look forward to working with them on security, intellectual property and competition issues.”
Why Oracles change of heart? Zuck, who vigorously defended Microsoft in its antitrust battle with the government, also has been critical of the U.S. Department of Justices lawsuit to block the database makers attempt to acquire PeopleSoft Inc. In a statement from February, Zuck said: “The Department of Justice should rethink its decision to block the merger of Oracle and Peoplesoft. The market for enterprise applications is both fluid and extremely competitive. Allowing Oracle and Peoplesoft to merge will enable the combined company to invest more in the research and development necessary to create better products at better prices.” Added Zuck: “Using contrived market definitions such as Supply Chain Management (SCM), Customer Relations Management (CRM) or Human Resources (HR) and Financial Management Systems (FMS) can hide the depth of competition in this market.”
In addition to Oracle, ACT announced that VeriSign Inc., of Mountain View, Calif., has become a member of the organization, joining more than 3,000 other software developers, systems integrators and organizations.
“Representing eBay, Microsoft, Oracle, Orbitz, VeriSign and thousands of smaller information technology innovators, ACT is maturing into one of techs strongest voices in Washington and governments throughout the world,” Zuck said in a statement.
Editors Note: This story was updated to include Zucks comments about Oracles bid to take over PeopleSoft.
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