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Date set for Oracle antitrust suit

The Justice Department's lawsuit to block Oracle's hostile bid for PeopleSoft will head to court in June, a district court judge decides.

A district court judge on Wednesday set a June 7 trial date in the Justice Department's lawsuit to block Oracle's hostile bid for PeopleSoft.

In a victory for the government agency, Judge Vaughn Walker advised Oracle to turn over customer discount forms that company executives had approved. The Justice Department says the forms are crucial in demonstrating that Oracle offered steep discounts when competing against PeopleSoft and SAP for deals.

"I agree with the (Justice Department)...that these forms are highly relevant and should be produced promptly," Walker said at the U.S. District Court of Northern California in San Francisco.

He advised the two parties to hold discussions on the appropriate number of forms to turn over and to discuss their progress during a telephone conference next week.

However, Oracle was successful in persuading the judge to accept its argument to give two of its in-house lawyers access to highly sensitive information from third parties in the case.

The Justice Department had sought to create a two-tier system, in which Oracle's outside attorneys could review all documents while its in-house attorneys would be prevented from viewing material deemed highly confidential.

"I would find a two-tier system offensive in the way it treats in-house counsel. I don't want them to be treated like second-class citizens," Judge Walker said. "By the same token, it's important in the public interest that people who provide information to the government feel it will be kept confidential."

The judge ordered the Justice Department to hand over the third-party documents to Oracle but did allow any third party, such as a customer or competitor, to lobby the court within five business days to black out sensitive material.

Justice Department representatives said it would be unlikely that Oracle's in-house attorneys would be able to view the "highly confidential" documents before the five days had passed.

The conference marked the first court appearance for both the Justice Department and Oracle in the closely watched case. Last month, the agency announced it would challenge the proposed $9.4 billion PeopleSoft deal. The business software maker responded that it would fight the Justice Department's decision.

Oracle needs to gain approval from the U.S. courts to move forward with the bid and must clear an antitrust review by the European Commission.