Microsoft Says Oracle Exec Behind States' Sanction Plan

Attorneys for Microsoft Corp. said Friday an executive at Oracle Corp. helped write the tougher antitrust sanctions being sought by some state attorneys general against the company.

In a federal court filing, Microsoft said Oracle vice president Ken Glueck was one of the "prime movers" behind the remedies being sought as an alternative to a settlement of the government's antitrust case against the world's largest software company.

"Oracle is one of Microsoft's most vocal critics and hostile competitors. Thus, it is perhaps not surprising that Oracle worked closely with the non-settling states, helping them to conceive of and prepare their draconian remedial proposal...," Microsoft wrote in the brief filed on Friday.

But the head of a trade group, whose members include Microsoft competitors, said there was nothing wrong with other companies providing input in the case, since they know "the realities and practicalities" of the industry.

"Lawbreakers ought to not be surprised if people go to the authorities charged with enforcing the law and explain to them what they know about the law being broken," said Ed Black, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association.

An appeals court in June found that Microsoft had illegally maintained its monopoly in personal computer operating systems.

The alternative remedy proposal was filed with the court in December by nine state attorneys general who have refused to sign onto a settlement agreement between the Microsoft, the Justice Department and nine other states in the case.

Oracle, the world's No. 2 software provider, issued a statement that did not directly reject Microsoft's allegation.

"We strongly believe that any motions that involve Oracle at this point in the process are likely presented as a delaying tactic and are not aimed at determining an appropriate remedy for Microsoft's monopolistic conduct, which is the central issue of this case," the company said.

Since the antitrust case began nearly four years ago, Microsoft and its competitors have accused each other of trying to exert influence over government officials.

The dissenting states want U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to require Microsoft to offer a cheaper, stripped-down version of the company's Windows operating system.

In addition, these states say it would close loopholes in the Justice Department's settlement deal and do more to ensure Microsoft discloses key Windows code to other software makers.

Kollar-Kotelly said Friday she would hold a hearing on the merits of the settlement proposal in early March. Separate hearings on the proposals for tougher sanctions are tentatively due to start a week later.

In its legal brief, Microsoft said Glueck's role in the states' remedy proposal is evident in documents already turned over by Oracle and the states.

Microsoft's attorneys said it has subpoened other documents from Oracle, along with a deposition from the company's chief corporate architect, Edward Screven, who was tentatively slated to testify as a witness for the states.

"When Microsoft pressed Oracle to comply with the document subpoena, Oracle abruptly announced that the non-settling states would not be calling Screven as a witness after all, which according to Oracle meant that Microsoft was no longer entitled to any Oracle documents," Microsoft's brief says.