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Silicon Valley wage collusion case will go to court

Judge Koh smacks down Google, Intel, Apple and Adobe

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Silicon Valley companies will be lining up in front of Judge Lucy Koh to defend themselves over their notorious anti-poaching agreements at the end of May, after the judge denied their attempt to have the case tossed out.

Judge Koh has slapped down the attempt by Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe seeking summary judgement in the case, in a decision posted here at Scribd.

The judge notes that the plaintiffs “have presented sufficient evidence that tends to exclude the possibility that Defendants acted independently” regardless of whether or not there is “a plausible and justifiable reason for their conduct that is consistent with proper business practices”.

In the decision, Judge Koh notes that the agreements reached as far as Pixar and Lucasfilm, while “Google maintained an explicit do-not-cold-call list that grouped Apple, Intel, and Intuit together”.

Sheeting the collusion home to executives like Eric Schmidt and the late Steve Jobs, Koh lists a litany of incidents including Schmidt terminating a recruiter “within the hour” for calling an Apple engineer, and Jobs calling Intuit's Bill Campbell, “pissed that we are still recruiting his browser guy”.

The decision also outlines evidence that the companies shared confidential information about pay scales for engineers, which would help them deal with the way that Google in particular was seen as driving up Silicon Valley salaries.

Not everybody took part in the no-hire agreement: last week, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg said the social network rebuffed Google's approaches.

“The similarities in the various agreements, the small number of intertwining high-level executives who entered into and enforced the agreements, Defendants’ knowledge about the other agreements, the sharing and benchmarking of confidential compensation information among Defendants and even between firms that did not have bilateral anti-solicitation agreements, along with Defendants’ expansion and attempted expansion of the anti-solicitation agreements constitutes evidence, viewed in the light most favourable to Plaintiffs, that tends to exclude the possibility that defendants acted independently, such that the question of whether there was an overarching conspiracy must be resolved by a jury,” the decision states.

Judge Koh's decision means the lawsuit should commence on May 27. ®

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