Sunday, August 03, 2003

Antitrust News: Oracle Expansion

The antitrust battle over Oracle-PeopleSoft welcomes some more players to the field:
PALO ALTO, Calif. (Reuters) - Attorneys general from about 30 U.S. states are cooperating in federal antitrust enforcers' review of Oracle Corp.'s ORCL.O $7.3 billion hostile bid for PeopleSoft Inc. PSFT.O, sources familiar with the matter said on Friday.

"This is purely procedural and a matter of course," Oracle spokeswoman Jennifer Glass told Reuters on Friday.

Glass said all of the information Oracle provides for the Department of Justice's antitrust review is also available to the state attorneys general, who are also invited to attend the company's ongoing meetings with regulators.

The attorneys general, including those from New York, Texas and California, have already spent more than a month reviewing the deal. They have agreed to share information and costs associated with their investigations, and to divide up tasks related to the probe, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
One attorney general not part of this group is Connecticut's Richard Blumenthal, who already filed suit to block the potential merger on antitrust grounds. The group-of-about-30, however, may or may not take action at some later date. My guess is the AGs will defer to the Justice Department, which almost certainly will take action for political reasons.

The interest of the state AGs can be attributed to the importance of database software to state governments. Most states are customers of Oracle or PeopleSoft, and thus the AGs are likely most interested in protecting their own financial butts. Nothing wrong with that per se, but that still doesn't excuse contemplating the use of force to prevent a possible merger between two private businesses.

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