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Oracle pulled made-up cloud figures out of its SaaS – whistleblower

Big Red vows to fight ex-finance bod's claims that it inflated sales numbers

An ex-Oracle staffer claims she was fired for refusing to keep quiet about the database giant's exaggerated cloud sales.

On Wednesday, Svetlana Blackburn filed a whistleblower lawsuit with the US district court in San Francisco, alleging that she was dismissed on October 15 last year – two months after being given a positive performance review – because she would not artificially inflate Oracle's cloud revenues.

According to the filing [PDF], Blackburn, a senior finance manager at Oracle, claims her bosses "instructed her to add millions of dollars in accruals to financial reports, with no concrete or foreseeable billing to support the numbers, an act that plaintiff warned was improper and suspect accounting."

In her allegations, Blackburn paints a picture of senior executives padding Oracle's cloud figures despite her objections. When she threatened to blow the whistle on the practice, she was told she was being irritating, and a few weeks later she was fired, her lawsuit reads.

She says she refused to play ball on the accounting techniques because they broke the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. She has filed for whistleblower status, which if granted will give her immunity to prosecution and a slice of any fines levied against Oracle should her allegations be proven correct.

"We don't agree with the allegations and intend to vigorously defend the matter," Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger told The Reg.

There have been concerns from analysts about the state of cloud revenue reporting. In January, Gartner issued a report warning that many technology firms have been artificially raising their cloud figures, and cited Oracle as counting some of its hardware leases as infrastructure-as-a-service sales.

In its latest quarterly results, Oracle's profits were down 14 per cent but cloud revenues were up 58 per cent on the year-ago quarter, with software-as-a-service (SaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) contributing $583m to the pot. Oracle supremo Larry Ellison took the opportunity at the time to tweak rival Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff's nose at how fast Big Red's cloud figures were rising.

Blackburn has asked for a jury trial. Oracle will be hoping it goes better than its last jury trial – you know, the one with Google and Java. ®

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