Tech firms settle job-poaching lawsuit

In a case that exposed the dark side of hiring practices in Silicon Valley, Apple Inc., Google Inc., Intel Corp. and Adobe Systems Inc. have settled a major lawsuit alleging they colluded not to poach employees from each other, according to a letter filed Thursday with the federal judge handling the case.

The letter, from lawyers representing tens of thousands of employees who sued over the “no poaching” agreements, does not include an amount, but reveals that the terms of the settlement will be presented by May 27 to U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh.

The 64,000 employees suing the companies were entitled to as much as $3 billion in damages, according to experts who would have testified on their behalf at trial. Experts for the companies had countered in court papers that the conduct did not cost workers much, if any, money, and disputed claims that it discouraged engineers and others from switching employers.

The companies were scheduled to go to trial in the case in late May, facing the prospect of allegations that top executives, including late Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Google CEO Eric Schmidt, cut secret deals to prevent hiring movement in Silicon Valley.

Apple and Google declined comment. Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy would only say the company continues to deny the poaching allegations and “elected to settle this matter in order to avoid the risks, burdens and uncertainty of ongoing litigation.”

Adobe could not immediately be reached for comment.

Kelly Dermody, a lawyer for the workers, declined to discuss specifics of the settlement or whether it would affect valley hiring practices.

The case already has blown the lid off on the way Silicon Valley’s most powerful executives dealt with the region’s hypercompetitive job market, revealing internal emails with damaging remarks about suppressing recruitment between 2005 and 2009. In one such 2005 email exchange, Jobs reportedly told Google co-founder Sergey Brin: “If you hire a single one of these people, that means war.”

Recently released documents show that one tech power, Facebook Inc., rebuffed pressure to take part in the no-poaching agreements. Koh in a recent ruling noted how Facebook refused to take part in “Google’s anti-solicitation agreements.”

The judge has repeatedly found there was ample evidence of anti-competitive conduct for the case to proceed to trial. Pixar and Lucasfilm, as well as Intuit, previously settled in the case for about $20 million.

The companies settled a similar antitrust case filed by the U.S. Justice Department several years ago. The Justice Department has an identical antitrust case against eBay pending in federal court.

More in Herald Business Journal

Snohomish County’s campaign to land the 797 takes off

Executive Dave Somers announced the formation of a task force to urge Boeing to build the plane here.

A decade after the recession, pain and fear linger

No matter how good things are now, it’s impossible to forget how the collapse affected people.

Under cloud of ethics probes, Airbus CEO Enders to step down

He leaves in 2019 after 14 years. Meanwhile, aircraft division CEO Fabrice Bregier leaves in February.

For modern women, 98-year-old rejection letters still sting

In a stark new video, female Boeing engineers break the silence about past inopportunity.

Drone’s ease piercing of NY ‘no-fly’ zone underscores risks

An Army Black Hawk helicopter suffered damage to one of its rotor blades, but was able to land safely.

Tax reform needs the public’s input on spending priorities

The GOP tax plan is a good idea, but the next step should give us a voice on how taxes are spent.

Commentary: GM, Boeing fight a war of words over Mars

Boeing is strongly signaling how crucial deep-space exploration is to its future.

US prosecutors move to cash in on $8.5M in seized bitcoin

The bitcoin cache was worth less than $500,000 when a suspect was arrested on drug charges.

Disney buying large part of 21st Century Fox in $52.4B deal

Before the buyout, 21st Century Fox will spin off the Fox network, stations and cable channels.

Most Read