Supplier secrets face public airing

The judge who could block Oracle's takeover of PeopleSoft is pressing for confidential documents and testimony in the case to be...

The judge who could block Oracle's takeover of PeopleSoft is pressing for confidential documents and testimony in the case to be made public.

Judge Vaughn Walker believes that making the materials public will help people understand the reasoning behind his forthcoming judgement.

"It's a high-profile case and his decision will be analysed and the subject of considerable comment," said Jeff Shohet, a lawyer in a firm unconnected with the case.

The US Department of Justice launched the lawsuit in February to block Oracle's hostile takeover attempt on the grounds that it would stifle competition and lead to higher prices. Oracle argued that SAP and dozens of other, smaller rivals would give it plenty of competition.

Judge Walker expressed frustration throughout the trial at the amount of material filed under seal. It includes documents and testimony describing the competitive strategies of Oracle, PeopleSoft and other suppliers, the mechanics of complex software deals and the ins and outs of supplier discounts.

Judge Walker has ordered all parties to show cause why the materials should not be made public.

Shohet said the judge wanted to give a clear and complete decision without having to dance around confidential material or issuing a heavily edited document that would be harder to comprehend.

"Judges are under considerable pressure from news services and others to maintain public access to judicial proceedings. Judge Walker writes thorough opinions in high-profile cases and does not want to be constrained in explaining his reasoning," he said.

The two-month juryless trial ended in July and Judge Walker is expected to issue his decision in the next few weeks. The merger also needs approval from European regulators and PeopleSoft's shareholders.

James Niccolai writes for IDG

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