International Business Machines warned the Justice Department yesterday that its 10-year-old antitrust case against the company would be brought to a "crashing halt" by a government request to review more than 350 million documents in 100 countries.
IBM called the government request "ludicrous" and "reprehensible."
The Justice Department has asked IBM to produce the documents in an attempt to determine the extent of any possible relief to antitrust victims should the government win its case.
The computer giant said that in order to meet the government request, it would have to produce "several million pages of the most proprietary and confidential documents in the company's possession and an aggregate effort of more than 2,000 man-years."
"Moreover," IBM claimed, the motion "would regquire the effort to be replicated automatically every six months until the final termination of this lawsuit."
IBM, which predicted the case would end this year, contends it has done all it can to expedite the case. The company is presenting its case now, after the government took nearly three years to present its case.
In an affidavit filed in support of IBM's motion, IBM attorney Tom Barr unleashed the angriest attack the company has yet made on the government's behavior in the case.
Barr called the government's motion "in flagrant disregard of fundamental principles of fairness... unnecessary and unreasonably broad... it would required me to divert a very substantial part of the legal resource devoted to the trial of the case and would require IBM to spend vast sums of money for no useful purpose."
Barr accused the government of "a continuing effort to use massive discovery during trial as a means of preventing defendant from effectively presenting a full and fair defense."
"It is shocking," Barr said of the government motion, "because it reveals that those attorneys now in charge of (the government) case are ignorant of what the record contains. They just don't know that 15,000 pages of their direct case and over 5,000 of their exhibit pages are devoted to the post-1972-to-date time period (they are seeking information on in their current filing.) That shocks me and ought at least to startle anyone who is interested in the fair and expeditious administration of justice."