Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe fail to persuade court to settle anti-poaching lawsuit

Judge's gavel

Silicon Valley behemoths Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe have failed to persuade a US court to agree to a $324.5m (£193.4m) settlement to resolve a lawsuit by employees, who accused the firms of conspiring to avoid poaching each other’s workers.

According to Reuters, US District Judge, Lucy Koh, said in a ruling on Friday in San Jose, California, that the class action settlement should have been higher, given the strong case the plaintiffs had against the companies.

“[There is] substantial and compelling evidence that [late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs] was a, if not the, central figure in the alleged conspiracy,” Koh noted in her ruling.

The Judge provided evidence that involved Jobs and other Valley executives that linked the companies together and that the defendants played a major role in organising the alleged scheme to work together to avoid poaching each other’s employees.

The lengthy court order stated: “The Court cannot conclude that the instant settlement falls within the range of reasonableness.

“As this Court stated in its summary judgment order, there is ample evidence of an overarching conspiracy between the seven Defendants, including the similarities in the various agreements, the small number of intertwining high-level executives who entered into and enforced the agreements, defendants’ knowledge about the other agreements, the sharing and benchmarking of confidential compensation information among defendants and even between firms that did not have bilateral anti-solicitation agreements, along with defendants’ expansion and attempted expansion of the anti-solicitation agreements.”

Representatives for Apple, Google and Adobe weren’t immediatey available for comment.

However, an Intel spokesman, Chuck Mulloy, told Reuters that the company is disappointed Koh rejected an agreement “that was negotiated at arm’s length over many months,” but appreciates that Koh provided additional information as to why.

The case arose in 2011, based largely on emails in which Apple’s Jobs, former Google Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt and some of their rivals hatched plans to avoid poaching each other’s prized engineers.

Tech employees said the conspiracy had limited their job mobility and, as a result, fixed wages.

The companies had hoped to get the case dismissed in 2012 but were refused on grounds of plausible interference.

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9 August 2014 | 10:19 am – Source: v3.co.uk

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