Feds to probe tech hiring practices; Good luck with that one

The Justice Department is reportedly investigating whether tech titans such as Yahoo, Apple and Google are in cahoots on recruiting and hiring practices. If true, these companies could be in violation of antitrust laws.

The Justice Department is reportedly investigating whether tech titans such as Yahoo, Apple and Google are in cahoots on recruiting and hiring practices. If true, these companies could be in violation of antitrust laws. Good luck finding the paper trail on that one. 

In fact, this DOJ fishing expedition has "waste of time" written all over it. The Washington Post reports (VentureBeat notes The Deal broke the story first):

The review, which is said to be in its preliminary stages, is focused on the search engine giant Google; its competitor Yahoo; Apple, maker of the popular iPhone; and the biotech firm Genentech, among others, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

A few thoughts:

  • This industry-wide probe is likely to go well beyond tech. In most industries the companies involved know each other well. And typically it's good sportsmanship if you leave and refrain from poaching entire teams of talent (at least right away). Is the DOJ probing sportsmanship and business conduct or antitrust violations? If companies agree not to hire top talent away (unless approached of course) that could be viewed as proper conduct. 
  • How does the DOJ hope to prove industry-wide collusion? Do you think there's really a treasure trove of memos from the likes of Steve Jobs, Steve Ballmer, Carol Bartz and Eric Schmidt on the matter? Of course, Schmidt and Jobs aren't trying to hire from each other. They're friends. 
  • Top talent isn't that restricted. Google execs go to Facebook. They go to AOL. Yahoo execs go to Microsoft. Microsoft execs go to Google. In fact, you can make quite a career just hopping between those aforementioned companies. 

All of that said I'll be very interested to see what the Justice Department finds. Will it have reams of quantitative data proving hiring collusion? Or will it merely have a bunch of anecdotes by disgruntled middle managers that wish they could be poached?

Witch Hunt image via Death by 1000 Paper Cuts

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