In a motion filed under seal last month, Intel is seeking to disqualify Richard Parker, deputy director of the FTC's bureau of competition and the lead attorney prosecuting the agency's case against Intel.
Intel apparently objects to ties that Parker's former firm, O'Melveny & Myers, has to Intel archrival Advanced Micro Devices, which is testifying against Intel in the trial. The FTC, Intel, and AMD all declined to comment.
The loss of Parker would be huge for the FTC.
"There's a lot at stake for the commission, because Rich is perhaps the most capable person to litigate this case in the bureau of competition," said William Kovacic, a visiting professor at George Washington University. "It would be the equivalent of having one of your premier, all-star performers having to sit on the bench."
Details of Intel's disqualification motion came as the names of two new potential trial witnesses emerged. They are Dean A. Klein, former chief technical officer of Micron Electronics, and Donald Lewine, an engineering consultant with Data General. According to FTC records, Intel is seeking to block both witnesses from testifying for the government at the trial, which is scheduled to start March 9.
An FTC spokeswoman confirmed that Intel filed the motion to disqualify Parker and said that the agency is opposing the request. Prior to Parker joining the FTC, two federal agencies approved his participation in the Intel matter, said the FTC spokeswoman, Victoria Streitfeld. The agencies include the FTC's own ethics officer and the federal office of government ethics, which advises agencies on prospective employees.
"We're confident there's no issue," Streitfeld added. The motion "is one of those things that gets raised to disrupt the process." It was unclear when Administrative Law Judge James Timony would rule on the motion.
Because the motion was filed under seal it was not immediately clear why Intel sought Parker's dismissal. Both Intel and the FTC declined to discuss the grounds for Intel's request.
But one likely reason is that prior to coming to the FTC Parker was a partner at O'Melveny & Myers, a law firm that has close ties to AMD. In the early 1990s, for example, the law firm helped AMD prevail against Intel in a high-profile battle over "microcode" to the 386 and 486 chips. Tom McCoy, an O'Melveny partner who oversaw a number of AMD's disputes with Intel, eventually became general counsel for the smaller chipmaker.
AMD has harbored a longstanding gripe with Intel over its alleged strong-arm tactics within the chip industry, and has not been shy in sharing its complaints with FTC investigators, according to people familiar with the matter. As previously reported, AMD's chief operating officer, Atiq Raza, is a potential FTC witness in the trial.
Under ethical guidelines established by the government, prosecutors are supposed to advocate on behalf of the general public, and not any particular person or company, said John Steele, a partner at Fenwick & West who teaches an ethics class at the University of California at Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law.
"Intel would have standing to complain if they could prove that Parker's loyalty to AMD might override his loyalty to the public interest," Steele said.
Two more potential witnesses
Meanwhile, two new names were added to the list of potential witnesses testifying for the FTC in the case. Klein was recently named vice president of enhanced products at Micron Technology, the parent company of Micron Electronics, which manufacturers computers.
Data General's Lewine, meanwhile, was also confirmed as a witness, but a company spokesman described the senior engineer's testimony as "a personal matter having nothing to do with Data General."
In a separate motion filed under seal last month, Intel opposed the FTC's designation of both witnesses. Neither side would discuss the reason for Intel's motion.