Apple wins court order blocking class action in anti-poaching lawsuit


Apple, along with Google and five other Silicon Valley technology heavy-weights, has won a court order blocking a potentially devastating class-action antitrust lawsuit concerning alleged anti-poaching conspiracy.

Bloomberg reported that U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh Friday denied class action certification over accusations that said companies illegally conspired not to recruit one another’s employees, which the plaintiffs said resulted in their incomes being held down by their employers…

Joel Rosenblatt, writing for Bloomberg, reported that the ruling prevents former employees from claiming class action status in their suit, though Koh left the door open for the plaintiffs to try again for class certification and eventually sue as a group…

The case can’t proceed now as a class action, partly because “plaintiffs examples, though compelling, may not be sufficient to show that all or nearly all class members were affected by the anti-solicitation agreements without additional documentary support or empirical analysis,” Koh wrote in the ruling.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs said in a written statement that a renewed motion will be filed, citing the significant amounts of evidence suggesting these illegal anti-poaching agreements were commonplace. As we reported earlier, the case could see the current Apple CEO Tim Cook and the former Intel CEO Paul Otellini both questioned.

In addition to Apple and Google, the suit also names four other high-profile companies: chip giant Intel, Photoshop maker Adobe, media empire Walt Disney’s Pixar animation unit, software maker Intuit and film and television production powerhouse Lucasfilm.

Reuters adds that Judge Koh was “keenly aware” new evidence had recently become available that could support class certification.

Should the plaintiffs’ succeed with a renewed motion, Apple, Google and others may potentially face civil damages in excess of hundreds of millions of dollars based on tens of thousands of people who were affected by the alleged anti-poaching agreements.

Bulk of the evidence includes email communication exchanged between top executives, including late Apple CEO Steve Jobs and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. One such incriminating piece of evidence is the back-and-forth between Steve Jobs and Palm CEO Edward Colligan where Steve complained about our Apple employees being actively recruited by Palm rather they deciding themselves they wanted to join Palm.

Jobs also sent an email to the then Google CEO Eric Schmidt in 2007, demanding that the Internet giant stop poaching Apple employees. The Verge has a nice gallery of these email messages, if you’re eager to read them.

What’s really interesting is that most of those exchanges end with lines like “no one can know about this” so clearly these CEOs had been aware they were engaging in illegal practices.

Be that as it may, such gentleman’s agreements no doubt hurt workers as in turn both their wages and employment choices on the free marketplace get severely restricted.

Perhaps we need stricter laws preventing these kinds of workforce abuse?