Tech workers have sued the companies, alleging
they conspired to avoid competing for each other's employees in
order to avert a salary war. Trial is scheduled to begin in May.
Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe argued that any no-hire
agreements between the companies were reached independently, and
were not part of an overarching conspiracy. However, U.S.
District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California rejected that
"That the agreements were entered into and enforced by a small
group of intertwining high level executives bolsters the
inference that the agreements were not independent," she wrote.
Representatives for Apple, Google and Adobe could not
immediately be reached for comment. An Intel spokesman said the
company is studying the ruling.
The case began in 2011 when five software engineers sued Apple,
Google, Adobe Systems Inc, Intel Corp and others, alleging a
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.
The case has been closely watched in Silicon Valley, with much
of it built on emails among top executives, including the late
Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs and former Google Chief
Executive Officer Eric Schmidt.
Walt Disney Co's Pixar and Lucasfilm units and Intuit Inc have
already agreed to a settlement, with Disney paying about $9
million and Intuit paying $11 million.
At a hearing this week, attorneys for Google and the plaintiffs
said they were "making progress" in settlement talks.
The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California
is In re: High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, U.S. District
Court, Northern District of California, No. 11-02509.
(Reporting by Dan Levine; editing by David Gregorio)
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