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Friday, 25 April 2014 10:38

Google and Apple settle conspiracy case

Written by Nick Farrell

Anything to protect Steve Jobs reputation

Apple and Google have decided to protect the reputation of Steve Jobs by settling a court case which would have revealed him to be a total arse. Four major tech companies including Apple and Google were sued by employees who complained that they conspired to keep salaries low by entering into illegal non-headhunting pacts.

The trail was shaping up to be very entertaining; with the plaintiffs primed to show evidence that Steve Jobs was an arse to practically everyone. The defendants’ lawyers had done their best to try to stop evidence of this nature becoming known, but it looked like the US District Judge Lucy Koh was not going to stop it. After a Google recruiter solicited an Apple employee, Jobs complained and Google fired them. Jobs forwarded Schmidt's note to a top Apple human resources executive with a smiley face.

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. Another exchange shows Google's human resources director asking Eric 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 agreed.

The companies had acknowledged entering into some no-hire agreements but disputed the allegation that they had conspired to drive down wages. 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. Walt Disney's Pixar and Lucasfilm units and Intuit had already agreed to a settlement, with Disney paying about $9 million and Intuit paying $11 million.

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. 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 will pay.

Facebook is laughing all the way to the bank, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg rebuffed an entreaty from Google in 2008 that they refrain from poaching each other's employees.

 

Last modified on Friday, 25 April 2014 10:42

Nick Farrell

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