In a bid to keep Facebook from hiring away its engineers, Google instituted a policy of making counter-offers within a one hour window, out of line with the company's "equal pay for equal performance" policy. These details emerged from emails disclosed in the wage conspiracy case involving Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe, being heard by US District Judge Lucy Koh.
The companies and the workers who brought the case to court, have reached an agreement to settle the matter for $324 million, the Wall Street Journal reports but the potential embarrassment continues to grow, as emails from 2007 onwards show how Google reacted to the growth of Facebook.
While the one-hour counteroffer to Google engineers offered jobs by Facebook was leaked before, the court documents now show an email by the then Google CEO Eric Schmidt, where he writes: "Since I announced our 1 hour policy exactly 24 hours ago we should be embarrassed and disgusted by this leak. Eric", in response to someone seeking clarification on the policy.
At the time, Facebook had just raised funds from Microsoft and was growing aggressively. It wasn't a party to non-recruiting pact between the other tech giants, and upset the existing arrangements between companies by hiring from each of these companies.
That Google would want to stop people from leaving for Facebook makes sense, but the decision to come back with a counter-offer within a one-hour window, and to offer significantly more than Facebook might not have been a good tactic.
One of the emails released is from Vijay Gill, who was then in a managing role in engineering, and is now General Manager, Global Network Services at Microsoft. Gill's mail lists the details of how Google will "significantly enhance" offers to candidates with offers from Facebook, and will give people a counter-offer within an hour if they have an offer from Facebook.
Gill pointed out in his mail that this "appears to reward folks applying to facebook [sic], and appears to contravene our equal pay for equal performance policy. I am disturbed by this policy, even though I recently lost one engineer to facebook [sic]."
Another interesting detail which came out in the mails was a discussion to have Google's co-founders personally reach out to Facebook employees to hire them away from the social network. This plan was apparently dropped though, over fears that Page and Brin reaching out to Facebook employees would get leaked, and it would look bad for Google's image.