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Judge apologizes, agrees to pay Tom Siebel $100,000

Apology brings an end to a 12-year legal saga that started out as a wrongful-termination lawsuit against Siebel Systems, now owned by Oracle, and its founder.

A California judge has issued a public apology and agreed to pay $100,000 to the founder of Siebel Systems for damaging his reputation in a lawsuit she filed as a lawyer in the mid-1990s.

San Mateo Superior Court Judge Carol Mittlesteadt issued a letter of apology to Tom Siebel on Thursday to express her "sincere regret for pursuing claims against you that were determined to be without merit." She also acknowledged that she "may have caused substantial expense and inconvenience, and damage to your reputation and good name."

Siebel founded business software maker Siebel Systems in the early 1990s. He was chairman of Siebel Systems until Oracle bought the company for $5.8 billion in 2006. Siebel is now chairman of First Virtual Group, a diversified holding company based in Palo Alto, Calif.

Mittlesteadt, who became a judge 10 years ago, issued the unusual apology to fulfill the requirements of a settlement that wraps up a legal saga that began 12 years ago when Siebel Systems fired its top sales representative. Mittlesteadt, who represented the employee, filed a wrongful-termination and sex discrimination suit against Siebel and his company. A court later ruled that the claims against him were unfounded.

Siebel told the Associated Press that he hopes that the public apology will teach attorneys not to fabricate claims in hopes of extracting a large settlement.

"This was a single person's effort at tort reform," he said. Siebel added that he is surprised Mittlesteadt is a judge. "I am not sure who is watching the hen house here," he said.

Siebel plans to donate the money to Stanford's law school for the study of legal ethics.