Tech workers brought a class action lawsuit against Apple, Google
Inc, Intel Inc and Adobe Systems Inc in 2011, alleging they
conspired to avoid competing for each other's employees in order to
avert a salary war. Trial is scheduled to begin at the end of May on
behalf of roughly 64,000 workers in the class, and plaintiffs say
damages could top $3 billion.
The case, which is closely watched in Silicon Valley, is largely
built on emails among top executives, including Apple's late chief
executive Jobs and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
In one instance, after a Google recruiter solicited an Apple
employee, Schmidt told Jobs that the recruiter would be fired, court
documents show. Jobs then forwarded Schmidt's note to a top Apple
human resources executive with a smiley face appended.
Earlier this week, the four companies asked U.S. District Judge Lucy
Koh to prevent plaintiffs from unfairly portraying Jobs as a "bully"
at trial. The companies said they did not seek to bar Jobs'
communications about the no-hire agreements, but rather evidence
gleaned from sources like Walter Isaacson's bestselling biography
However, in the filing on Thursday, the employees said such material
had been used in separate antitrust litigation involving Apple over
"That the jury might draw conclusions about Mr. Jobs' character
based on evidence showing the manner in which he pursued the
conspiracy at the heart of this case is not grounds to exclude such
evidence," they wrote.
A Google spokesman declined to comment. Representatives for Apple,
Intel and Adobe could not immediately be reached for comment, nor
could an attorney for the plaintiffs.
The four companies agreed to settle a U.S. Department of Justice
probe in 2010 that barred them from entering into such no-hire
agreements in the future. They have since been fighting the civil
antitrust class action, arguing that the plaintiffs cannot
successfully prove an overarching conspiracy to impact wages.
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In addition to evidence about Jobs' character, the tech companies
also asked Koh to prohibit discussion of the government probe at
trial. However, on Thursday the plaintiffs argued that the jury
should know the reason the companies eliminated their no-hire
Additionally, the plaintiffs seek to introduce evidence about the
personal wealth of executives like Google co-founder Sergey Brin — and how it could be enhanced by holding down workers' salaries and
boosting margins, according to the filing.
At a hearing last month, attorneys for Google and the plaintiffs
said they were "making progress" in settlement talks.
Walt Disney Co's Pixar and Lucasfilm units and Intuit Inc were also
defendants in the original lawsuit but agreed to a settlement, with
Disney paying about $9 million and Intuit paying $11 million. A
hearing on final settlement approval is scheduled for May 1.
The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California is
In Re: High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, 11-cv-2509.
(Reporting by Dan Levine; editing by Kenneth Maxwell)
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