The news at a glance

Feuds: Oracle and SAP square off in court; Foreclosures: Ohio blocks a quick fix; Smart phones: Droid boosts Motorola earnings; Cable TV: Fox and Cablevision come to terms; Insurance: A bond insurer mulls bankruptcy

Feuds: Oracle and SAP square off in court

Opening arguments began this week in a trial “that could make for some of the best theater Silicon Valley has seen in years,” said Jim Finkle in Reuters.com. The trial pits business-software giant Oracle against its German archrival, SAP. The German company has long acknowledged that a now-shuttered SAP subsidiary, TomorrowNow, “stole Oracle’s software and resold the technology at bargain-basement prices” to former Oracle customers who were unhappy with Oracle’s high prices. Last week SAP further admitted that its top executives knew about the theft. The trial’s ostensible purpose is to determine how much SAP owes in damages: $2.3 billion, as Oracle claims, or “tens of millions,” as SAP contends.

Oracle and its famously combative CEO, Larry Ellison, aren’t looking for money, said Karen Gullo in Bloomberg.com. Their real aim, say analysts, is the “humiliation” of SAP. Lawyers for SAP agree, saying Oracle is mounting “a heck of a PR sideshow” to harass SAP. It’s just icing on this bitter cake that SAP’s former CEO Leo Apotheker is now CEO of another Oracle rival, Hewlett-Packard. Ellison can now rattle two executive suites for the price of one.

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Foreclosures: Ohio blocks a quick fix

Hopes for a speedy end to the foreclosure crisis were shaken last week, after Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray warned big lenders against trying to “paper over” their documentation errors, said Robbie Whelan in The Wall Street Journal. Cordray alerted GMAC Mortgage, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and other banks that he’ll fight foreclosures for which they have submitted new paperwork to replace the sometimes slapdash documents signed by “robo-signers.” The goal, Cordray says, is to encourage banks to modify mortgages and work out payments with delinquent borrowers rather than evict them.

Smart phones: Droid boosts Motorola earnings

Motorola reported an unexpected profit in the third quarter, thanks to brisk sales of handsets powered by Google’s Android operating system, said Mary Ellen Podmolik in the Chicago Tribune. Motorola, which had previously predicted it wouldn’t return to profitability until the fourth quarter, earned $109 million in the July–September period, compared with $12 million in that period last year. Sales of smart phones “rose to a higher-than-expected 3.8 million units.”

Cable TV: Fox and Cablevision come to terms

Fox Broadcasting and Cablevision resolved a dispute that blocked millions of East Coast viewers from receiving Fox programming, including the World Series, said Georg Szalai in HollywoodReporter.com. Cablevision will now pay Fox an undisclosed—but larger—share of subscriber fees in exchange for carrying Fox’s cable channels, including Fox Business Network and the National Geographic Channel. Cablevision complained that it was being forced to pay for unpopular channels in order to gain access to Fox’s sports programming.

Insurance: A bond insurer mulls bankruptcy

Ambac, the nation’s second-largest bond insurer, is negotiating a bankruptcy filing with its creditors, said Maria Woehr in TheStreet.com. The move follows Ambac’s announcement that it would miss an interest payment due on Nov. 15. Ambac, which owes $1.6 billion to creditors, made an ill-timed bet to insure mortgage-backed securities. Since the mortgage market blew up in 2008, Ambac has been unable to raise new financing.

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