Oracle has denied in a California federal court charges leveled by a former manager that she was sacked after she refused to cook accounts in the company’s cloud business and threatened to blow the whistle on the accounting practices.
The software and cloud computing giant appears to be fleshing out its original stand that the employee had been terminated for poor performance and not as a whistleblower, which would give her a number of protections under securities laws.
In a filing in June in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Svetlana Blackburn, a senior finance manager for North America SaaS/Cloud Revenue, alleged that her superiors had instructed her to “to add millions of dollars in accruals to financial reports, with no concrete or foreseeable billing to support the numbers," an act that she had warned was improper and suspect accounting.
Oracle denied the charge in its reply on Tuesday to the complaint and also denied that Blackburn had ever told her supervisor that she would “blow the whistle” if ordered to proceed in the fashion.
The company’s lawyers wrote that the actions Blackburn complained of were not in retaliation, but based upon “legitimate, non-discriminatory, job-related reasons, including Plaintiff’s ongoing performance issues and failure to address same”. The filing refers to Blackburn's alleged "improper conduct" while working at Oracle and her "choice to file false and scurrilous allegations in this case."
The former employee was not a “whistleblower” under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which protects employees from discrimination, because she did not make a report “to the Commission” as required by the language of the DFA, according to the filing.
Blackburn, whose employment was terminated after what she describes as a positive performance review in August 2015, accuses Oracle of unlawful retaliation under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Dodd-Frank Act, which are laws that aim to prevent corporate accounting fraud and errors, and offer protection to whistleblowers.
Oracle has also denied Blackburn’s charge that her employment at the company came “to an abrupt end because she resisted, refused to engage in and threatened to blow the whistle on accounting practices she reasonably believed to be unlawful.” In her complaint, Blackburn had also charged that upper management was "trying (and trying to push her) to fit square data into round holes, in an effort to bolster ORACLE Cloud Services financial reports that would be paraded before company leadership as well as the investing public.” Oracle has denied this allegation as well in its filing.
There is some dispute about the date on which Blackburn’s employment was terminated, with her complaint claiming in some places that it was Aug. 26, though in other places it mentions Oct. 15. Oracle has stated that she was terminated on Oct. 15.
After Blackburn sued Oracle, company spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger said it was confident that all its cloud accounting is proper and correct. "This former employee worked at Oracle for less than a year and did not work in the accounting group. She was terminated for poor performance, and we intend to sue her for malicious prosecution,” she added.
Blackburn’s lawyer could not be immediately reached for comment late Tuesday.