Anti-poaching suit involving Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe hits snag

Anti-poaching suit involving Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe hits snag

Summary: A new tech trial drama on the way? A new federal court turn-of-events could pave the way.


Now that patent suit/trolling wars seem to be on their way out of fashion, the stage is set for another kind of legal battle in the high-tech world.

Judge Lucy Koh, of Apple v. Samsung fame, just struck down a $324.5 million settlement achieved in a class action suit between a group of former tech employees and some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley, alleging there was a secret pact not to steal each others' staff. 

Those companies include Apple, Google, Adobe, and Intel -- and by extensionPixar, Lucasfilm, and Intuit, which resulted in a previous settlement in 2013.

Here in lies the snag for Judge Koh.

Quite simply, the federal judge didn't think that $324.5 million was enough for the present settlement in comparison to the 2013 settlement.

Here's an excerpt from the lengthy order out of the U.S. District Court in San Jose on Friday afternoon:

This Court has lived with this case for nearly three years, and during that time, the Court has reviewed a significant number of documents in adjudicating not only the substantive motions, but also the voluminous sealing requests. Having done so, 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 “[t]he 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.”

Now that the $324.5 million agreement has been tossed out, it is possible that the matter could go to trial if the damages figure isn't boosted significantly -- or to at least $380 million, as suggested by Judge Koh.

Both the plaintiffs and defendants have presented arguments against going to trial, most of which Judge Koh dismissed in her court order on Friday.

For a look at the entire 32-page order, scroll through the document below.


Topics: Legal, Apple, CXO, Google, IT Employment

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  • It should be painful

    For all the colluders so much so that whey will be making millionare out of the people they tried to screw over. Because that is the only think Corporations care about money and growth to make the "cough" stockholders happy. Stockholders will be pissed and hopefully vote the scumbags out. But we all know they will get a slap on the hand and a few milliondollar bonus.
  • There's more to the story

    This kind of thing has been going on for decades in the tech industry. Before companies started working together like this people would jump from one job to the next to the next, each time getting a large pay increase (those who had experience in certain types of industry work were sought after to the extreme).

    By the way .. It's my guess that the unseen birth mother at the heart of this suit is a certain huge electronics conglomerate (known for its 'unique' non-standard and often unappreciated business practices), a company that we see expanding big time in Silicon Valley, a company that's coming here from its home across the great Pacific.
    • Even if that's true, It's still illegal

      I don't believe it's standard practice in most organizations and knew some companies explicitly turned these defendants down when asked to join. I do think people job switching constantly is bad for business but the only ones to blame for that are the companies themselves. If someone switched jobs frequently a smart person wouldn't hire them without a good explanation as to why they kept switching.
      • Collusion happens

        And if the number of employers is small and the number of job applicants is large, it's not all that hard to get away with.

        The Reserve Clause that was standard practice among professional sports leagues in the US for many decades came about because there were many more men good enough to play baseball professionally than there were teams to accommodate them, allowing clubs and leagues to dictate the terms to their own advantage (so much the easier because the owners all communicated with each other regularly and controlled their respective leagues). But it should be no surprise to anyone that professional sports teams aren't the only employers averse to competing with each other for talented and potentially expensive employees (economic competition is great as long as I don't have to do it).
        John L. Ries
      • No Company Asked Openly to Join in this Practice

        To train someone for a critical position and then have them hired away by another company is frustrating beyond belief. Unofficial agreements by HR managers kept this practice to a minimum.
        • That is what "collusion" means.

          I figure it's reasonable to exchange training for a time commitment (written contract), but not for employers to implicitly agree among themselves not to hire each other's people. I assure you that 19th Century National League owners were at least as frustrated by players jumping from one club to another often to a rival league), but it didn't justify the measures taken to prevent it.

          Much better to encourage loyalty up by practicing loyalty down.
          John L. Ries
        • This is the intended nature of capitalism

          Which isn't meant just for balance sheets; companies are meant to compete with each other for specialists, and fight tooth and nail to keep them.

          It isn't as though the only correct form of market forces is the product line - sometimes it is the HR line as well.
          • One of the differences between free enterprise and the free market

            The latter assumes that everybody has to compete and that all participants in the market have approximately equal freedom to make economic decisions; the former focuses on the freedoms of commercial firms, while ignoring the freedoms of consumers and workers.
            John L. Ries