Silicon Valley workers may pursue
collusion case as group: court
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[January 15, 2014]
By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) — Roughly 60,000 Silicon Valley
workers won clearance to pursue a lawsuit accusing Apple Inc, Google Inc
and other companies of conspiring to drive down pay by not poaching each
other's staff, after a federal appeals court refused to let the
defendants appeal a class certification order.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals late on Tuesday let stand an
order by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California to let
the workers sue as a group, and pursue what the defendants said
could exceed $9 billion of damages.
The case began in 2011 when five software engineers sued Apple,
Google, Adobe Systems Inc, Intel Corp and others over an alleged
"overarching conspiracy" to suppress pay by agreeing not to recruit
or hire each other's employees.
These defendants were accused of violating the Sherman Act and
Clayton Act antitrust laws by conspiring to eliminate competition
for labor, depriving workers of job mobility and hundreds of
millions of dollars in compensation.
Class certification can make it easier for plaintiffs to extract
larger awards, at lower cost than if they sued individually. It
could also add pressure on defendants to settle.
"We look forward to seeking justice for the class at trial," said
Kelly Dermody, a partner at Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein,
co-lead counsel for the class. She said a trial is set to begin on
A Google spokesman declined to comment. An Intel spokesman had no
immediate comment. Adobe and Apple did not immediately respond to
requests for comment.
In seeking the appeal, the companies had called Koh's order
They said that the claims were too disparate because they covered
employees with 2,400 job titles at seven companies, and that the
plaintiffs did not allege any impact on total hiring.
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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also asked the 9th Circuit to grant
permission for the appeal.
Much of the case was built on emails between top officials,
including the late Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs and former
Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt, that the plaintiffs said
reflected understandings not to raid each other's talent.
The 9th Circuit decision is Hariharan et al v. Adobe Systems Inc et
al, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 13-80223. The lower-court
case is In re: High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, U.S.
District Court, Northern District of California, No. 11-02509.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York;
editing by Kenneth
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