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Oracle Admits Snooping in Microsoft Case

From Bloomberg News

Oracle Corp., the world’s second-largest software maker, admitted Tuesday night that it hired a detective agency to investigate groups that supported rival Microsoft Corp.

Oracle hired Investigative Group International Inc. to look into the actions of two research organizations, the Independence Institute and the National Taxpayers Union. It sought to uncover links between Microsoft and the organizations during its antitrust trial, Oracle said in a statement.

“Oracle discovered that both the Independent Institute and the National Taxpayers Union were misrepresenting themselves as independent advocacy groups, when in fact their work was funded by Microsoft,” Oracle said in a statement obtained by Bloomberg News.

Oracle said it hired the firm to gather information that Microsoft financially supported the organizations, which were releasing purportedly independent studies supportive of Microsoft during the antitrust trial. The financial ties between Microsoft and the groups were previously reported by the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.

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“Left undisclosed, these Microsoft front groups could have improperly influenced the outcome of one of the most important cases in U.S. history,” Oracle said in the statement.

The revelation further highlights the fierce rivalry between the two software giants and their chairmen, Oracle’s Larry Ellison and Microsoft’s Bill Gates. Ellison has been an outspoken critic of Microsoft, calling the company on numerous occasions “a convicted monopolist.”

A Microsoft spokesman said the revelation reveals the lengths to which competitors will go to discredit the world’s biggest software maker.

“This is dramatic evidence that our competitors have been funding and orchestrating a massive lobbying and public relations campaign against Microsoft,” spokesman Mark Murray said. “I think it’s a very sad day and an embarrassment to Oracle and all of its employees.”

Oracle admitted ties to IGI after media reports said the detective agency tried to buy trash from a Washington-based research group supported financially by Microsoft, the Assn. for Competitive Technology. IGI was rebuffed in its efforts this month to pay two cleaning women $1,200 for the trash, newspaper reports said.

Oracle didn’t admit it hired the firm to investigate the Assn. for Competitive Technology. When it hired IGI to investigate “numerous front organizations,” it didn’t specify how information should be gathered, Oracle said.

“We did however insist that whatever methods IGI employed, those methods must be legal,” the Oracle statement said.


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