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Court calls off Oracle hearing

A federal judge says he has enough information to issue a ruling on a lawsuit that alleges the database giant inflated revenue by misapplying customer overcharges.

A federal judge on Monday canceled a hearing into a shareholder lawsuit that alleges Oracle used overpayments from some of its customers to improperly inflate its sales.

Judge Martin Jenkins of the Northern District of California said he would make a decision based on written materials provided by the plaintiffs and Oracle, rather than listen to oral arguments at a hearing that was planned for Tuesday.

No date has been set for Jenkins' decision.

The class-action lawsuit, initially filed in 2001, accused the database giant of making false and misleading statements about its operations, products and finances during the second and third quarters of fiscal 2001.

The initial lawsuit and an amended complaint were dismissed. Jenkins is now considering a second amended complaint that was filed in October. The latest amendment contains new information about Oracle customers who were allegedly overcharged and cites interviews with dozens of unnamed former and current employees.

According to the lawsuit, Oracle "routinely" failed to inform customers of overpayments and counted the extra money as revenue--to the tune of $228 million in the second quarter of fiscal 2001. The Redwood Shores, Calif.-based software maker reported revenue of $2.7 billion during that quarter.

Oracle has won two previous motions to dismiss the case, but in each instance the judge has also allowed the plaintiffs' attorneys, Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, to file amendments.

Oracle spokeswoman Jennifer Glass said the company expects to be cleared of the allegations. "The case has been dismissed twice already," she said. "We have thoroughly reviewed their allegations and have confirmed that the conclusions reached in the complaint are completely wrong."

The initial lawsuit was filed in 2001 on behalf of Local 144 Nursing Home Pension Fund, UFCW Local 56 Retail Meat Pension Fund, Drifton Finance and Robert D. Sawyer.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs declined to comment.