Internal emails show that executives at tech companies such as Apple and
Google believed that an agreement to refrain from poaching each other's
workers would bring real financial benefits, a U.S. judge said on
Five former employees of various tech companies have filed a
civil lawsuit against Apple Inc, Google Inc, Intel Corp and others,
alleging an illegal conspiracy to eliminate competition for each other's
At a hearing in San Jose, California federal court on
Thursday, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh also ordered Apple Chief
Executive Tim Cook to be questioned by plaintiff attorneys for four
Koh must decide whether the lawsuit can proceed as a class
action, which would give the plaintiffs more leverage to extract a large
settlement. Koh said that at the time the no-poaching agreements were
forged, top executives felt a collective approach toward hiring was more
efficient than dealing with employees individually.
think, is the biggest problem for the defendants," said Koh, who did not
identify the executives. However, Koh also closely questioned a key
economic analysis commissioned by the plaintiffs, which the judge said
Koh did not rule on the class action issue during the hearing on Thursday.
2010, Google, Apple, Adobe Systems Inc, Intel, Intuit Inc and Walt
Disney Co's Pixar unit agreed to a settlement of a U.S. Justice
Department probe that bars them from agreeing to refrain from poaching
each other's employees.
The Justice Department and California
state antitrust regulators then sued eBay Inc late last year over an
alleged no-poaching deal with Intuit. eBay said the government is wrong,
and has not been named as a defendant in the civil lawsuit.
Plaintiff attorneys have estimated that civil damages potentially could run into hundreds of millions of dollars.
court on Thursday, Adobe attorney Robert Mittelstaedt said the
plaintiffs had no evidence that employees were actually impacted by the
no-cold call deals.
"It's not in the data," Mittelstaedt said.
2007, Apple's Steve Jobs asked former Google Chief Executive Eric
Schmidt to stop trying to recruit an Apple engineer, a transgression
that threatened one junior Google employee's job, according to a court
filing last year. At the time, Schmidt was an Apple board member.
on Thursday criticized attorneys for the tech companies for being too
slow to schedule depositions of top executives. Apple attorney George
Riley attempted to spare Cook from a deposition, saying that when Cook
was chief operating officer (COO) of the company before succeeding Jobs
in 2011, Cook had no role in any of the no-hire agreements.
"I find it hard to believe a COO would have no say over salary and compensation for all employees," Koh responded.
Google attorneys agreed that Schmidt, now Google's executive chairman,
could be questioned by plaintiffs' lawyers on February 20. Executives
from several other companies were also scheduled for depositions,
including Intel chief executive Paul Otellini.
The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California is In Re: High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, 11-cv-2509.
© Thomson Reuters 2012