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Oracle, feds exchange preliminary witness list

CEOs Larry Ellison and Craig Conway are expected to face off next month in an antitrust trial brought by the U.S. Department of Justice over Oracle's proposed takeover of PeopleSoft.

CEOs Larry Ellison and Craig Conway are expected to face off next month in an antitrust trial brought by the U.S. Department of Justice over Oracle's takeover bid for PeopleSoft, according to a preliminary witness list the two sides recently exchanged.

As federal antitrust regulators and Oracle finalize their lists by May 18, the process is likely to rival the NFL draft. Witness selection comes as the Justice Department and Oracle prepare for the June 7 trial in U.S. District Court. The federal agency earlier this year filed an antitrust lawsuit to block Oracle's proposed $9.4 billion hostile acquisition of PeopleSoft.

Both parties are allowed to select 25 preliminary witnesses and share that information with each other, before building a final list. Each party will be allowed to swap out five of the names on the preliminary list in honing its trial strategy.

"Each side has five placeholders that you will expect to swap out. It's kind of like playing a poker hand," a source familiar with the case told CNET News.com on Saturday. The story was first reported in the San Francisco Chronicle on Saturday.

The Justice Department, for example, has heavily weighted its preliminary list with current PeopleSoft customers, who are expected to discuss their limited options in selecting a vendor to supply enterprise software applications to their respective industry.

Oracle, meanwhile, may focus on bolstering the number of competitors on its list, seeking those who can discuss the fierce competition among a number of players, rather than just Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP.

Oracle's preliminary witness list includes competitors SSA, Microsoft, Lawson, ADP and Fidelity Employee Services as competitors, while the Justice Department, as would be expected, does not list competing companies, the source said.

Justice Department attorneys may look at removing some of their public sector witnesses, such as Erie County, or the District of Columbia, and replace them with additional Oracle executives who were not listed in Oracle's preliminary lineup, the source added.

Oracle's preliminary list includes Ellison, Co-president Safra Catz, and Keith Block, executive vice president of North America, as well as PeopleSoft executives Conway and Phil Wilmington, executive vice president of the Americas.

The Justice Department and Oracle will be allowed to cross examine each other's witnesses, so it would save a precious spot on the witness list not to duplicate the other party's witnesses, the source said.

Federal antitrust regulators, for example, have PeopleSoft Chief Technology Officer Rick Bergquist on their preliminary list, while Oracle does not.

Rounding out the line up for both parties are several economists, the source noted.