June 28, 2000 3:10 PM PDT

Oracle chief defends Microsoft snooping

Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison today defended his company's decision to hire detectives to investigate two research groups that supported Microsoft during the antitrust trial.

Oracle hired Investigative Group International to probe two research organizations, the Independence Institute and the National Taxpayers Union. The company sought to verify links between Microsoft and the organizations during its antitrust trial--and even tried to buy trash from another research group with close ties to Microsoft.

Oracle told Bloomberg News today it discovered that the two organizations were misrepresenting themselves as independent advocacy groups when they were in fact funded by Microsoft. Oracle said the company hired the detective agency because the organizations were releasing studies supporting Microsoft during the antitrust trial. The financial ties between the organizations were reported by The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.

"It's absolutely true we set out to expose Microsoft's covert activities," Oracle chief executive Ellison said today during a press conference at Oracle's headquarters in Redwood Shores, Calif., in which the company announced new software products. "I feel very good about what we did."

Ellison said the two research organizations made it appear that it would be best for American taxpayers if Microsoft won the antitrust trial. The judge in the case has since ruled that Microsoft be broken in two, a decision being appealed by Microsoft.

"They were bogus polls that said, 'If anything hurts Microsoft, our country will really suffer.' These experts were bought and paid for by Microsoft, by two taxpayers, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer," Ellison said, referring to Microsoft's top executives. "They said what Microsoft wanted them to say."

Ellison said he was not aware that Oracle had hired the detective agency to snoop on Microsoft and its relationship with the two organizations.

"We weren't spying. We were trying to expose what Microsoft was doing," said a fiery Ellison when reporters asked repeatedly about the detective agency's attempts at buying garbage. "Maybe our investigation organization may have done things unsavory, but it's not illegal. We got the truth out."

A Microsoft representative Special coverage: Breakuptoday defended the company's relationships with the research groups, saying they were legal and well known.

"Oracle apparently believes its business goals are more important than the free speech and privacy rights of others," a Microsoft representative said in a statement. "The only thing more disturbing than Oracle's behavior is their ongoing attempt to justify these actions."

The Microsoft representative accused Oracle of funding groups that are anti-Microsoft, but Ellison denied the charge.

Ellison added that he would have no problems if Microsoft investigated Oracle and tried to go through Oracle's garbage.

"I'm prepared to ship our garbage to Redmond, and they can go through it," he said.

Ellison said he has no regrets for investigating the research groups and said the company has no plans to investigate other firms.

"There are no other companies that operate like Microsoft. They destroyed the most innovative company in the Valley. Netscape is gone," Ellison said of the Web browser pioneer. "Our job is to hurt Microsoft. And we're trying to move from the second to the first position."

 

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