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PeopleSoft hires antitrust luminary

Attorney Gary Reback, who marshaled industry opposition to Microsoft during the browser wars, is joining PeopleSoft to fend off Oracle's takeover bid.

One of Oracle's old antitrust allies has become the company's top antitrust adversary.

Silicon Valley attorney Gary Reback, who marshaled industry opposition to Microsoft's efforts to squeeze Netscape from the browser business and who compiled evidence to aid the U.S. Department of Justice's antitrust case against Microsoft, has been hired by PeopleSoft to fend off Oracle's hostile $6.3 billion takeover bid.

While Oracle CEO Larry Ellison did not hire Reback during its dogged antitrust pursuit of Microsoft, instead funding the ProComp lobbying group, the two men shared the same strategy during the 1990s: to humble Microsoft through aggressive application of the Sherman Act and other antitrust laws. Now, Reback is accusing Oracle of occupying a similar monopolistic position.

PeopleSoft hired Reback because "he's one of the top antitrust lawyers in the country," a company representative said on Thursday. Reback's new client was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Until 2000, Reback, 54, was a partner at the storied firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. He left to try his hand at being an entrepreneur, founding Internet telephony startup Voxeo, and now has returned to practicing law by affiliating himself with the law firm of Carr & Ferrell.

Oracle's bid to buy PeopleSoft has come under antitrust scrutiny by some state attorneys general, who have complained that their state governments and their constituents would have to pay more for software if the deal went through. Connecticut filed suit to block the acquisition, and the prospect of a broader lawsuit was discussed during a regular conference call that dozens of attorneys general organized this week.

Oracle surprised the software industry this month when it made an unsolicited takeover bid for PeopleSoft just days after PeopleSoft had announced plans to acquire J.D. Edwards for $1.7 billion. PeopleSoft and Oracle compete in the market for broad-based business applications, an area in which Oracle has had little success leveraging its commanding lead in database software.

"In the highly fragmented applications market, this is an acquisition of consolidation," Oracle said in a statement sent via e-mail on Thursday. "We will support PeopleSoft 7 on any platform for years beyond the December deadline PeopleSoft has given its customers, and we will support PeopleSoft 8 on any platform for at least the next 10 years."