Oracle Gets Caught in Garbagegate

Oracle took some heat this summer after hiring a private detective agency to dig up dirt about Microsoft during the Microsoft antitrust trial. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison defended his decision to spy on Microsoft and some of its secret allies as "a public service" and "civic duty," claiming that Microsoft's illegal business practices justified Oracle's efforts. Oracle uncovered proof that several supposedly independent consumer advocacy groups were in fact shell organizations that Microsoft financed.

"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 for the express purpose of influencing public opinion in favor of Microsoft during its antitrust trial," Oracle explained in a statement. Oracle's investigation came to light when the detective agency it hired tried to buy office trash for $1200 from the cleaning crew for a Microsoft ally called the Association for Competitive Technology. This organization was the third company that the detectives linked to Microsoft: Reports in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal previously demonstrated that Microsoft also financed the Independent Institute and the National Taxpayers Union.

Although Ellison at the time claimed to have only recently found out about the tactics the detective agency used, he took full responsibility for the investigation. Ellison even offered to ship his garbage to Microsoft. "We will ship our garbage to Redmond, and \[Microsoft\] can go through it," he said. "We believe in full disclosure."

Microsoft's response, however, lacked a humorous undertone. In a tersely worded response to the discovery, the company condemned Oracle's actions. "The only thing more disturbing than Oracle's behavior is \[the company's\] ongoing attempt to justify these actions," Microsoft said in a statement. Microsoft notes that Oracle also has a group of lobbying companies, including the Progress and Freedom Foundation and the Software and Information Industry Association.

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