Judge rules Oracle CEO Ellison destroyed evidence

A judge has ruled that Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison deliberately destroyed or withheld e-mails and failed to preserve tape recordings that should have been turned over to lawyers for shareholders suing him, according to Bloomberg News, as reported on the Los Angeles Times Web site.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco said Sept. 2 that the e-mails, as well as recordings of interviews for a book about Ellison, were willfully withheld. Ellison and Oracle knew the material was potentially relevant to claims that they made false statements about the company's 2001 second-quarter financial results and problems with a software product, Illston said.

As a penalty, Illston said the jury would be instructed to assume that Ellison knew about the problems. The judge also said that she would take that assumption into account when deciding whether to rule in favor of investors' claims and Oracle's requests to dismiss the case. The trial is scheduled to begin March 30.

Investors claim that Redwood City, Calif.-based Oracle improperly booked millions in sales in 2001. Ellison knew about the problems and sold $900 million of company stock before they were disclosed publicly, investors said.

Ellison settled a similar investor lawsuit in 2005.

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