Oracle in Court Over Wrongful Termination
Alleged intellectual property violations are, as they say, another story.
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On April 29, 1999, Sandy Baratta, vice president of global alliances for Oracle, informed higher management about her concerns that Oracle CRM developers were wrongfully accessing the privileged software resources of partner SAP AG. One day later, Baratta was handed her walking papers.

This August, a San Francisco Superior Court jury ruled that Baratta was the victim of wrongful termination, handing down a roughly $2.5 million dollar judgement against Oracle. Official court transcripts of the testimony offered at the trial were not available to meet CRM's editorial deadlines. Oracle remains mute on the matter, except for a short public statement expressing the company's displeasure with the verdict and its plans "to challenge the verdict with post-trial motions and by appeal."

However, Baratta's attorney, Alan Exelrod, a partner with San Francisco-based Rudy, Exelrod, Zieff & True, shared the details of the plaintiff's presentation with us. According to Exelrod, Baratta's April 1999 complaint to Oracle Executive Vice President Gary Bloom cited the actions of a U.S.-based employee in Oracle's CRM interface group and an Oracle database engineer working on-site at SAP's partner resource center in Germany. Baratta and her attorneys do not allege that Oracle misused or misappropriated SAP source code, but in her judgement, the CRM access was not above-board. "Our contention was that was a violation of the rules that had been created between SAP and Oracle about what permission Oracle had to access R/3," says Exelrod.

Because the trial revolved around the issue of wrongful termination, not intellectual property violations, the judgement against Oracle does not reflect a legal opinion that Oracle behaved improperly with respect to SAP--only with respect to Baratta's dismissal.

When asked about the issues raised by Baratta, SAP America director of Public Relations Bill Wohl said only, "They are serious allegations, and we are studying them." There have been other signs of a weakening relationship between SAP and Oracle. Last December, SAP announced that it would strengthen ties between its software and Microsoft SQL Server 7.0.

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