We told you that one day we would see the last of Martha Stewart atop the Final Take, and we meant it. Today, a judge dismissed the most serious charge against Stewart, acknowledging that no juror could reasonably conclude Stewart committed securities fraud merely by protesting her innocence -- in essence, lying to boost the price of her stock.

We'll be as glad as anyone to see the SEC and the courts get to the bottom of this. Still, it's nice to see the focus back where it belongs: What Stewart knew and when about ImClone, whose stock she actually sold.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Or acle:

See You in Court

By Tim Beyers

No one in the computer industry creates more drama than Oracle(Nasdaq: ORCL) CEO Larry Ellison. On his best days, he's giving it to someone when he's feeling feisty. Yesterday wasn't one of his best.

The Department of Justice and seven states said they would sue to block Oracle's proposed $9.4 billion merger with business software provider PeopleSoft(Nasdaq: PSFT). The database giant has vowed to fight the ruling.

In calling the deal anti-competitive, the DOJ brought forth images of Microsoft's(Nasdaq: MSFT) antitrust troubles. Indeed, PeopleSoft CEO (and interestingly, former Oracle exec) Craig Conway greeted the news by saying in a statement that the "antitrust day of reckoning has arrived."

If Conway's comments feel like comeuppance, it probably is. When Ellison announced Oracle's bid for PeopleSoft last June, Conway shot back that it was "atrociously bad behavior," citing the fact that the offer came less than a week after his company's own pitch for Denver-based JD Edwards. Published reports indicate there's no love lost between the two, much like Ellison's rivalry with former lieutenant Tom Siebel of Siebel Systems(Nasdaq: SEBL).

The battle will now play out in the courts. Oracle had been bracing for a proxy fight at PeopleSoft's March 25 annual meeting. On Tuesday, Oracle mailed presentations to PeopleSoft shareholders urging votes for directors that it had nominated to the board. Last night, it withdrew its nominations and retreated from the proxy battle while extending the deadline for its tender offer of $26 per stub from March 12 to June 25.

PeopleSoft stock closed the day down nearly 2%, to $21.78. At that price, Oracle's offer represents a 16% premium, sweetening the deal for investors.

As much as I hate how global governments have been trampling on capitalism at what seems like a record pace, I have to admit the DOJ has a point with its suit. Post-acquisition, the only other major player in packaged business software would be market-share leader SAP(NYSE: SAP).

But it's also not that simple. The Web has created alternatives to such software. Some vendors are taking advantage of this by carving out small but lucrative niches in the space, such as privately held Salesforce.com. There's also debate over whether the method by which DOJ reviewed the merger broke new legal ground.

Let's face it, there are a number of good reasons for this case to go to court. Top of my list is to help define what antitrust standards should be for future mergers. It's only a matter of time before there's another big-name takeover bid.

Hard as it may be to believe, there's a very serious side to this sideshow.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers isn't for sale. He has no stake in any of the companies mentioned here.

Sh ameless Plug: Shiny, Happy People

Come join the folks on our discussion boards! We'll admit they are a feisty lot, but where else can you swap investing tips, dole out (and receive) relationship advice, and talk about the effect of dollar depreciation on international trade -- all while juggling flaming knives. Check it out and take advantage of our free trial offer. We promise, you'll find a nook or cranny that suits you.

Cl ear Channel's Witch Hunt

By Rick Aristotle Munarriz (TMF Edible)

Nipplegate's watchdogs have more than just eyes. They have ears, too. Radio station operator Clear Channel Communications(NYSE: CCU) has been on a moral rampage this week, removing shock jocks Bubba the Love Sponge and Howard Stern from its airwaves.

In Stern's case, he lives on. In the vast majority of markets, Viacom's(NYSE: VIA) Infinity Broadcasting is behind the show. Clear Channel simply pulled the plug on the rowdy morning circus in six markets.

If you're looking for a statement from me on whether this was the right move for Clear Channel on a moralistic level, watch how quickly I hand off this hot potato! If I wanted to be divisive, I would have started my own radio talk show.

What interests me is the investing angle. I can think of a few possible winners -- that's right, XM Satellite Radio(Nasdaq: XMSR) and Sirius Satellite Radio(Nasdaq: SIRI). Think about it. Just as folks flocked to cable TV to escape sanitized network content, satellite radio operators better be ready for the influx of folks who enjoy broader options.

At a time when traditional broadcasters can't afford to lose their core diehard listeners to XM and Sirius, even the most noble of intentions in cleaning up their stations could shoo folks into the captive arms of their subscription-based rivals. That's just not sound radio business.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz lives in Miami, one of the six markets that went Sternless yesterday. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story.

Qu ote of Note

"Despite what The Wall Street Journal says, our awards are the best-kept secret in America, with the possible exception of what George W. Bush did in the '70s." -- Billy Crystal (2000 Oscars ceremony)

Ch inadotcom's Greedy Growth

By Seth Jayson

Is 103% growth really 103% growth? That's a question investors in Chinadotcom(Nasdaq: CHINA) might want to ask themselves in the wake of today's happy headlines. A look beneath the big type shows that earnings may not be as supercharged as they seem.

This probably sounds familiar. If hot Chinese stocks were horses, we at the Fool would have been hauled in by the equine-cruelty police long ago for lashing Netease.com(Nasdaq: NTES), Sina Corp.(Nasdaq: SINA), Sohu.com(Nasdaq: SOHU), and China Life Insurance Co.(NYSE: LFC).

But any time stocks shoot up like these, it's good to step out of the crowd and refocus your enthusiasm. Chinadotcom's 103% revenue growth for 2003 does look amazing at first, as does the 9% gain in gross margins, to 46%. And investors will be happy about the firm's full-year profit of $0.15 per share, against last year's $0.18 loss.

But where is this growth coming from? The answer is not "organic growth of core operations." In fact, advertising and marketing revenues dropped 27% from last year. The winning phrase is: big shopping spree.

The company started out in the Internet advertising business, but over the last couple years has developed an appetite for enterprise software companies, such as the recent grab for unprofitable Canadian software firm Pivotal(Nasdaq: PVTL). Chinadotcom's strategy is to transform itself into a "profitable enterprise software and mobile applications company." If that sounds as vague to you as it does to me, then we agree that the firm seems to be searching for its soul.

In fact, Chinadotcom engages in more costume changes than Nathan Lane in The Bird Cage. The company plans to spin off its Web and mobile enterprises into a separate unit as it reorganizes to cope with recent business-software acquisitions and juggle new overtures to Chinese businesses such as Go2joy and Beijing 17game.

The frenetic lack of focus (and strangely named target enterprises) make me a bit nervous, as does its incorporation in the Cayman Islands. I'm not suggesting the firm doesn't have good prospects -- just that's it's very difficult to draw a bead on what those prospects might be. And when a firm has seen 470% inflation in stock price over the past year and carries a P/E north of 60, I like a lot more clarity and purpose in the business model.

Fool contributor Seth Jayson is preparing for angry email. He owns no stake in any company mentioned here.

Di scussion Board of the Day: Retire Early Home Page

Are you prepared for retirement? Hmm, no fibbing. Are you? To get an early start, head over to our Retire Early Home Page discussion board. Only on Fool.com.


re on Fool.com Today

With the Oscars on Sunday, we have a couple of contenders that may not have made the short list, but deserve an honorary head bob. First up, Zeke Ashton has a comeback pharma with more kick that Ralph Macchio.... Rick Aristotle Munarriz, always a fan of the underdog, strikes again with a sequel he thinks trumps the first in Five More Stocks Under $10.... Need a primer? Chris Hill gives you a rundown of old-school favorites such as Wall Street and Working Girl in Finance Lessons From the Oscars.... Last but not least, don't miss the final installment of David and Tom Gardner's interview with 7-Eleven CEO Jim Keyes.

In other news:

For a list of all our stories from today, see our Today's Headlines page.