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Apple, Google, others to face antitrust suit over staff poaching

April 19, 2012|By Jessica Guynn
  • In a 2007 email, Google's Eric Schmidt, above, was asked by Steve Jobs not to recruit an Apple engineer. "I would be very pleased if your recruiting department would stop doing this," Jobs wrote Schmidt, then-CEO of Google who also sat on the Apple board.
In a 2007 email, Google's Eric Schmidt, above, was asked by Steve Jobs… (Julie Jacobson / Associated…)

SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple, Google, Intel, Pixar and other high-tech companies will face an antitrust lawsuit that alleges they illegally conspired not to poach each other’s staffers.

San Jose U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh rejected a motion to dismiss the claims Wednesday night. In a 29-page opinion, she ruled that the “Do Not Cold Call” agreements among the defendants probably resulted “from collusion, and not from coincidence.”

Other defendants include Adobe, Intuit, and Lucasfilm.

Five software engineers have accused the companies of conspiring to limit pay and job movement. They are bringing the proposed class-action lawsuit.

The claims are similar to those raised by the U.S. Department of Justice. It settled an antitrust probe in 2010 that alleged the companies colluded to keep a lid on wages by agreeing not to poach employees from one another. The companies agreed not to restrain competition in the labor market for high-tech talent.

The litigation uncovered an email from 2007 from Apple’s Steve Jobs to Google’s Eric Schmidt over Google’s effort to recruit an Apple engineer.

"I would be very pleased if your recruiting department would stop doing this," Jobs wrote Schmidt, then-CEO of Google who also sat on the Apple board.

Google’s staffing director told Schmidt the employee who recruited the engineer would be fired, and asked Schmidt to apologize to Jobs.

Judge Koh remarked on the "significant influence" exerted by Jobs, Schmidt and Apple and Google director Arthur Levinson. At least one of them had a hand in each of the anti-poaching agreements among the defendants, she said.

"Their overlapping board membership lends plausibility to plaintiffs' allegations that each defendant entered into this conspiracy with knowledge of the other defendants' participation in the conspiracy," she wrote.

RELATED:

Google and others reach deal with Justice Department over hiring

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