Oracle hired Microsoft snoop
June 28, 2000: 1:09 a.m. ET

Software rival admits hiring detective agency to dig up dirt on MSFT
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NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Oracle, one of Microsoft's fiercest software rivals, acknowledged Wednesday that it paid a detective agency to monitor the political activities of Microsoft and its allies for a year.

graphicOracle said it hired Investigative Group International to expose the Microsoft's "underhanded attempts" to win its antitrust case against the Justice Department.

A federal judge ruled June 7 that Microsoft must be broken up into two companies to keep it from engaging in anticompetitive behavior in the future. The case is currently under appeal and could be heard this fall by the Supreme Court.

IGI went to great lengths to trail Microsoft and at least two groups sympathetic to its cause, at one point offering to pay for one group's office trash.

Oracle  (ORCL: Research, Estimates) confirmed to CNNfn Wednesday its role in a probe of the Independent Institute of Oakland, Calif. and the National Taxpayers Union of Arlington, Va.

Oracle spokeswoman Jennifer Glass told CNNfn, "As a result Oracle discovered both the Independent Institute and the National Taxpayer's Union were misrepresenting themselves as independent advocacy groups when in fact they were funded by Microsoft for the express purpose to influence public opinion in favor of Microsoft in the antitrust trial."

The Oracle spokeswoman added, "Microsoft also funded the Association for Competitive Technology for the same purpose. Left undisclosed, these Microsoft front groups could have influenced the outcome of one of the most important antitrust cases in U.S. history."

graphicThe Oracle statement continued, "We didn't specify how IGI should go about getting information. We did, however, insist that whatever method must be legal. IGI repeatedly assured us that all their activities were in fact 100 percent legal."

Oracle alleges the above groups, which feigned independence, were actually funded by Microsoft (MSFT: Research, Estimates) to boost public opinion in favor of the Redmond, Wash.-based software maker.

Microsoft spokesman Vivek Varma told CNNfn he first heard the allegation late Tuesday from the newspaper and has no independent confirmation.  He said, "it is sad for the industry that a company like Oracle (apparently) did this."

Varma said Microsoft is not at this point accusing Oracle of doing something illegal. He added that he does not know if Chairman Bill Gates or CEO Steve Ballmer are yet aware of the story, which was first published in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal.   Back to top

- CNNfn's Steve Young contributed to this report


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