The settlement was disclosed in a court filing on Thursday, which
did not spell out terms. The case has been closely watched due to
the potentially high damages award and a steady disclosure of emails
in which Apple's late co-founder Steve Jobs, former Google CEO Eric
Schmidt and some of their Silicon Valley rivals hatched plans to
avoid poaching each other's prized engineers.
Tech workers filed a class action lawsuit against Apple Inc, Google
Inc, Intel Inc and Adobe Systems Inc in 2011, alleging they
conspired to refrain from soliciting one another's employees in
order to avert a salary war. Trial had been scheduled to begin at
the end of May on behalf of roughly 64,000 workers in the class.
In one email exchange 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.
Another exchange shows Google's human resources director asking
Schmidt about sharing its no-cold call agreements with competitors.
Schmidt, now the company's executive chairman, advised discretion.
"Schmidt responded that he preferred it be shared 'verbally, since I
don't want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued
later?'" he said, according to a court filing. The HR director
The companies had acknowledged entering into some no-hire agreements
but disputed the allegation that they had conspired to drive down
Spokespeople for Apple, Google and Intel declined to comment on the
settlement, and an Adobe representative was not immediately
available for comment. An attorney for the plaintiffs, Kelly Dermody
of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, in a statement called the
deal "an excellent resolution."
Corporate defendants in antitrust cases often agree among themselves
what portion each will contribute towards a settlement, said Daniel
Crane, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. One
likely formula would be to divide the damages based on how many
employees each company has in the class, he said.
Apple, Google, Adobe and Intel in 2010 settled a U.S. Department of
Justice probe by agreeing not to enter into such no-hire deals in
the future. The four companies had since been fighting the civil
antitrust class action.
[to top of second column]
Walt Disney Co's Pixar and Lucasfilm units and Intuit Inc had
already agreed to a settlement, with Disney paying about $9 million
and Intuit paying $11 million.
Had the case against Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe gone to trial,
plaintiffs would have asked a jury to award roughly $3 billion in
damages, according to court filings. Under antitrust law, that could
have then been tripled to $9 billion.
Any settlement must be approved by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in
San Jose, California. A hearing on final approval of the Intuit and
Disney deals is scheduled for next week.
The plaintiffs and the companies will disclose principal terms of
the settlement by May 27, according to the court filing on Thursday,
though it is unclear whether that will spell out what each company
Some Silicon Valley companies refused to enter into no-hire
agreements. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, for
instance, rebuffed an entreaty from Google in 2008 that they refrain
from poaching each other's employees.
Additionally, Apple's Jobs threatened Palm with a patent lawsuit if
Palm didn't agree to stop soliciting Apple employees. However, then
Palm Chief Executive Edward Colligan told Jobs that the plan was
"likely illegal," and that Palm was not "intimidated" by the threat.
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 Peter Henderson)
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