Oracle discounted apps to beat rivals, claims DOJ

The US Department of Justice has uncovered evidence that Oracle discounts its applications when competing for sales against SAP...

The US Department of Justice has uncovered evidence that Oracle discounts its applications when competing for sales against SAP and PeopleSoft.

Lawyers for Oracle and the DOJ will meet with the judge overseeing the lawsuit this week to establish ground rules for the case, which the two sides anticipate moving to trial in June.

In a filing detailing disputed issues, the DOJ accused Oracle of withholding information about internal requests for discounts as well as executive approval forms.

"[These forms] provide first-hand accounts from defendant's salespeople and executives of how competition affects pricing. They reveal that the defendant can, and does, engage in price discrimination and that the identity of the defendant's competitor in a deal often affects the level of discount offered to the customer," the DOJ said in its filing.

"The discount forms are among the most direct evidence that the presence of PeopleSoft in the marketplace directly affects the prices and features of defendant's software."

Both parties agreed that Oracle turned over some discount forms during the DOJ's eight-month investigation of Oracle's PeopleSoft plans. Oracle argued that the remaining documents sought by the DOJ are not papers it is required to surrender in the discovery process.

"This issue evidently came to a head after Oracle had certified substantial compliance with the [DOJ's] second request, and was never resolved," Oracle's lawyers said.

The DOJ's antitrust case centres on its argument that the high-end market for integrated financial and human resource management software has just three players: Oracle, SAP and PeopleSoft. Combining two of those three would, unacceptably, limit competition and raise prices, according to the DOJ.

Oracle argued that the market is a fragmented one, citing as rivals suppliers including Lawson Software and SSA Global Technologies' Baan unit. It also disputed the existence of a clearly defined high-end market as described by the DOJ.

SAP chief executive officer Henning Kagermann said last week that the company sees the applications market as a diverse and competitive one.

The company is considering communicating its views to the DOJ and to the European Union, which also needs to approve the deal before an acquisition could be completed.

Stacey Cowley writes for IDG News Service

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