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Apple, Google and Intel to face angry ex-IT workers in court

Class action suit over no-poaching rules goes ahead

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A US judge has ruled that Apple, Google, Intel and other firms have to face their former employees in court in an antitrust lawsuit that alleges the firms conspired to keep wages down by stifling competition.

The three companies – along with Adobe, Intuit, Pixar and Lucasfilm – are accused in the class action suit of working together to eliminate competition for IT workers, thereby keeping their wages and mobility down, by agreeing not to poach each other's staff...

The court filing said:

According to Plaintiffs, the conspiracy consisted of an interconnected web of express bilateral agreements, each with the active involvement and participation of a company under the control of the late Steven P. Jobs (“Mr Jobs”) and/or a company whose board shared at least one member of Apple’s board of directors.

The firms have already faced the same charges from the Department of Justice, which sued and then settled with Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, Intuit and Pixar over the alleged "no-poaching" agreements that stopped the firms stealing each other's best workers.

Under the terms of the the settlement, the DOJ told the firms they were strictly forbidden from entering into "anticompetitive employee solicitation agreements".

The class action suit has been brought by software engineers who all formerly worked at the firms, including two from Adobe and one each from Intel, Lucasfilm and Intuit.

The tech firms tried to get the case dismissed on the grounds that it failed to substantiate its antitrust claims:

The [complaint] fails to allege evidentiary facts to support the claim of an “overarching conspiracy” among all Defendants to suppress their employees’ wages; such a conspiracy is implausible on its face; and the [complaint] fails to plead antitrust injury.

Apple and co's main argument was that six different bilateral agreements to not cold-call each other's employees did not add up to an overarching conspiracy – in other words, because all seven companies didn't all have an agreement with each other, there was no collusion.

However, the court was "not persuaded" by their arguments:

The fact that all six identical bilateral agreements were reached in secrecy among seven Defendants in a span of two years suggests that these agreements resulted from collusion, and not from coincidence.

The case is likely to go to trial sometime next year. ®

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