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Oracle judge denies requests to block expert testimony

The judge overseeing the US government's case to block Oracle's proposed takeover of PeopleSoft has denied requests from both parties to exclude testimony from each other's witnesses in the case.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) had asked the court for testimony from one Oracle witness to be excluded, while Oracle had requested testimony from three of the DoJ's witnesses to be blocked.

Judge Vaughn Walker denied all requests, ruling for each witness that their complete testimony is allowed.

The DoJ sought to exclude testimony from Dale Kutnick, the co-founder of research company Meta Group. A DoJ attorney argued that Kutnick's knowledge of the industry is based on second-hand information and that he did not have the relevant expertise to testify on economic aspects of the merger.

Oracle attorney Dan Wall responded that with 27 years of experience at Gartner and later at Meta Group, Kutnick is "a bonafide industry expert".

Judge Walker sided with Oracle, agreeing that Kutnick's consulting expertise is "broad and extensive" and therefore all of Kutnick's testimony will be allowed. 

Oracle sought to block testimony from three experts on the DoJ's witness list; Kenneth Elzinga of the University of Virginia, Preston McAfee of the California Institute of Technology and Marco Iansiti of the Harvard Business School.

Wall questioned the expertise of Elzinga and Iansiti and argued that McAfee's theory to weigh the effect of mergers is flawed. Under McAfee's theory, prices will always rise after a merger, Wall said.

Judge Walker disagreed, saying he regards Elzinga as an antitrust expert, that Iansiti's experience of analysing business needs is relevant and that McAfee's testimony should also be heard.

The telephone conference ended the first week of trial in the case that is expected to last four weeks. The DoJ says an Oracle-PeopleSoft merger would stifle competition in the market for high-end human resources and financial management applications, resulting in higher prices.

Oracle says there are numerous other competitors, and that other vendors such as Microsoft could enter the market at any time.

Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service


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