- The Washington Times - Friday, February 16, 2001

Oracle Corp. is receiving phone calls and e-mails from angry shareholders objecting to former President Clinton's planned speech next week at a corporate technology seminar.

The Redwood City, Calif.-based software company has received "more than a handful" of comments since announcing Feb. 12 that Mr. Clinton will speak at a seminar in New Orleans, a spokeswoman said.

The former president will earn an estimated $100,000 from Oracle for his hourlong speech, which he will give on Presidents' Day.

Shareholders are concerned about the expense at a time when Oracle's stock price has dropped 43 percent since its close of $46.31 a share Sept. 1.

Mr. Clinton "has nothing to do with technology or computer systems or networking systems and he has nothing to contribute to the company. The idea that Oracle would pay him to make a speech is ludicrous," said one Northern Virginia investor, who asked not to be identified.

The Northern Virginia investor was just one person who sent Oracle an e-mail objecting to the decision to pay Mr. Clinton his hefty speaking fee.

But not everyone objects to the move.

"They have a reason for inviting him, and we trust management," said William H. Leighty, director of the Virginia Retirement System, a $40 billion benefit plan for retired public employees.

The system holds more than 856,000 shares of Oracle stock.

Despite objections to Mr. Clinton's fee, registration at the seminar has increased since the company booked him, Oracle spokes-

woman Stephanie Hess said yesterday.

"We've definitely seen a spike," she said. "We are very much looking forward to it."

About 10,000 people are expected to attend the seminar.

The company denied that Oracle Chairman and Chief Executive Lawrence J. Ellison, the nation's second-wealthiest person with an estimated net worth of $58 billion, is courting Mr. Clinton to sit on the software company's board of directors.

"It's completely unfounded and untrue," Miss Hess said.

The board includes former Republican vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp, and former White House spokesman Joe Lockhart became a member of Oracle's senior management team after leaving the Clinton administration.

Technology analysts said yesterday that Oracle's decision to pay Mr. Clinton to speak is largely irrelevant.

"If shareholders are upset, I could appreciate that," said Robert Tholemeier, an analyst at investment banker Wells Fargo Van Kasper.

"It is at best a distraction from the issues: whether Oracle will grow revenue. Who cares what Clinton has to say at a technology conference?" he said.

To avoid a potential distraction, London-based investment banking firm UBS Warburg this week canceled plans to have Mr. Clinton speak at its annual conference in April.

The former president has been under scrutiny for his pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich. Denise Rich, Mr. Rich's ex-wife, contributed an estimated $450,000 to the Clinton Presidential Library Fund, more than $1.1 million to the Democratic Party and at least $109,000 to Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate campaign.

A UBS Warburg executive wrote Mr. Clinton on Dec. 4 urging him to pardon Mr. Rich. The company declined to comment on its decision to cancel Mr. Clinton's speaking engagement.

But the ongoing scrutiny of Mr. Clinton has not deterred Oracle.

Nor has it deterred Credit Suisse First Boston. The bank has said it will not revoke its invitation to Mr. Clinton to speak at a conference in New York Feb. 27.

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. Chairman Philip Purcell wrote an apologetic e-mail to clients last week, following Mr. Clinton's speech, saying the company "clearly made a mistake" in inviting the former president to speak at its investment conference in Florida.

"Our failure was particularly unfortunate in light of Mr. Clinton's actions in leaving the White House," Mr. Purcell wrote.

Oracle declined to disclose how much it will pay Mr. Clinton but said it is equivalent to the $100,000 he earned from Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co.

The computer company invited Mr. Clinton to speak about four months ago.

Others expected to speak at the Oracle seminar include former America Online Inc. executive and Netscape founder Marc Andreessen and Cisco Systems executive John Chambers.

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