Anti-poaching class action against Google and Apple settled

Posted on: September 8th, 2015 by Steve Larson

Circuit5A California federal judge approved a $415 million class action settlement between software engineers and Apple, Inc., Google, Inc. and others resolving claims they illegally agreed not to poach each other’s engineers.  U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh ruled that the deal, which added an additional $90 million onto a $325 million settlement she rejected in August 2014, fairly reflected the strength of the software developers’ claims that Google, Apple, Intel Corp. and Adobe Systems Inc. suppressed wages and violated antitrust laws by agreeing not to hire each other’s engineering talent.

The court overruled a handful of objections to the deal, saying a settlement that awarded the plaintiffs more than 14 percent of their estimated single damages was reasonable, particularly given that the defendants disputed the figure.

The software engineers sued the Silicon Valley companies in May 2011 for damages, claiming that the companies had agreed to provide each other notice whenever one made an offer to another’s employee. They also agreed to cap pay packages for prospective hires to prevent bidding wars and to abstain from recruiting one another’s personnel, the plaintiffs contended.

The complaint alleged that the agreements depressed the workers’ pay 10 percent to 15 percent below what it would have been with natural market conditions.  The allegations came to light after a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the hiring practices of several Silicon Valley technology companies.

The case is In re: High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, case number 5:11-cv-02509, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.