Antitrust Law

Apple, Google settle in claimed conspiracy to put a lid on tech salaries; workers had sought $3B


With a trial looming next month in a federal class action in which over 64,000 tech workers were seeking $3 billion in damages, some of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies have agreed to settle claims that they conspired to put a lid on salaries.

The amount of the settlement by Adobe Systems Inc., Apple Inc., Google Inc. and Intel Inc. wasn’t disclosed in a Thursday court filing in the San Jose case. However, when Intuit Inc. and the Pixar and Lucasfilm units of Walt Disney Co. last year reached a settlement in the same case they agreed to pay a total of $20 million, reports Reuters.

Unidentified sources told the news agency the total amount of the settlement agreed to Thursday by the four companies is $324 million.

Because the case alleged violations of antitrust law, any jury award could have been trebled.

The four companies admittedly had some no-hire agreements, but said they hadn’t conspired to keep salaries down. The case had been in the news both because of the amount of money at issue and because of the disclosure of a series of company emails that offered glimpses into the world of Silicon Valley’s upper echelon. In one note, former Google chief Eric Schmidt told the late Apple founder Steve Jobs that a Google recruiter who had approached an Apple employee would be fired, Reuters reports. Jobs put a smiley face on the note and sent it on to a top Apple human resources leader.

Before the settlement is finalized, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh must give it her OK. A hearing is scheduled next week concerning the Intuit and Disney settlement agreement.

Three of the four companies declined comment when contacted by Reuters. A representative of Adobe said the company denies the lawsuit’s allegations but settled “to avoid the uncertainties, cost and distraction of litigation.”

The New York Times (reg. req.) provides copies of the complaint (PDF) and an April 24 settlement letter (PDF) sent to Koh.

Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein represented the plaintiffs in the case.

Bloomberg, the Los Angeles Times (sub. req.), the Washington Post (reg. req.) and the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) also have stories.

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