A US judge has ruled that Oracle's in-house lawyers can gain access to confidential information the US government collected from third parties, as part of its antitrust review of Oracle's proposed takeover of rival PeopleSoft.
Without access to the information from organisations, which include competitors, partners and software buyers, Oracle may not be able to defend itself properly in the lawsuit brought against it by the US Department of Justice (DOJ). The suit seeks to block the acquisition.
Among those who provided the DOJ with information for its antitrust probe are the US Department of Defense and Oracle rivals SAP, Microsoft and Lawson Software.
The information includes highly confidential business information, lawyers representing these parties said.
Out of fear that lawyers on Oracle's payroll may share the secret information with others at the company, several of the entities that provided the DOJ with information asked the court to disclose it only to lawyers employed by a law firm hired by Oracle.
The judge denied the request, saying he did not want to degrade Oracle's in-house lawyers to second-class citizens. However, an order was issued limiting access to only two Oracle employees and set limits to how they can access the information and what they can do with it.
Lawyers for several of the third parties said they would discuss the ruling with their clients and may appeal against it.
Oracle launched its hostile bid for PeopleSoft in June last year. The all-cash offer has been raised twice and is now valued at $9.4bn.
The DOJ filed a lawsuit last month to block Oracle's hostile takeover bid for PeopleSoft. Combining the two companies would stifle competition in the enterprise software market.
The DOJ sees Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP as the only companies that sell enterprise applications meeting the needs of large organisations.
A third pretrial in the DOJ's case against Oracle has been scheduled for 16 April.
Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service