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Businesses Google Government Intel The Courts Apple

DOJ Investigates Google, Apple, and Others For 'No Poaching' Agreement 360

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-only-cheating-if-you-get-caught dept.
CSHARP123 writes "The Department of Justice launched an investigation into the 'No Poaching' agreement between Apple and Google in 2010, but details of the case were only made public for the first time yesterday. TechCrunch was the first to sift through the documents, and has uncovered some ostensibly incriminating evidence against not only Google and Apple, but Pixar, Lucasfilm, Adobe, Intel, and Intuit, as well. According to the filings from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose, these companies did indeed enter 'no poach' agreements with each other, and agreed to refrain from soliciting employees. The documents also indicate they collectively sought to limit their employees' power to negotiate for higher salaries."
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DOJ Investigates Google, Apple, and Others For 'No Poaching' Agreement

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  • by Megaweapon (25185) on Friday January 20, 2012 @10:20AM (#38761516) Homepage

    we need that money to fuel the lawyers for all our patent violation lawsuits against each other.

  • Cartels fall apart (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Friday January 20, 2012 @10:24AM (#38761552)
    So what? Cartels will naturally fall apart given no government interference. It is in their best interests to cheat on this agreement. Its just like the prisoner's dilemma, while it might be best for all of them to cooperate, they won't because they want an advantage over their competitors. Cartels never last so long as there is a lack of government involvement.
  • Re:So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sockatume (732728) on Friday January 20, 2012 @10:25AM (#38761560)

    Union actions are public knowledge. Whatever benefits the union gains are slightly counterbalanced by businesses' responses and negative reactions from the public and politicians. Corporate agreements are not public. Someone looking to be hired by one of these companies cannot use it to their advantage in the decision-making process, and they avoid any public reaction.

    If they want to make these "corporate unions" public they're welcome to have them, but the clandestine nature of the agreements makes it obvious that they already know that there'd be hell to pay.

  • by Mitsoid (837831) on Friday January 20, 2012 @10:33AM (#38761664)

    Seriously, god bless the American Free Market system....

    I would insert a parallel to Slavery from the past, but it'd probably get marked as a Troll or Flamebait... So... I'm just gonna call this "The new form of slavery".. You're bought and paid for by one company, and you're stuck there making whatever wage they give you regardless of the value of your contributions/knowledge/development (since no one else will be able to hire you for what you're grown to be worth)

  • Re:So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ByOhTek (1181381) on Friday January 20, 2012 @10:36AM (#38761704) Journal

    In general, employers, especially ones where unions are present, are a relatively small number of groups that wield a lot of organized power.

    Conversely, unions, ostensibly*, represent the employees and potential employees, a group which usually has more total power than the employers, but lacks the organization to wield it effectively, often wielding it only to the extant that the weakest and most desperate individuals in the group are willing to wield it. Why? because the employers will take those first, as they are cheaper, and this makes those that were trying to get fair compensation, instead of just any compensation become the weaker and desperate*. Unions can balance the ability to wield power so that the employers are move likely to provide fair compensation. Large employers typically don't need this assistance.

    * There are quite a few unions I've seen that seem to only absorb chunks their member's paychecks without actually providing any benefit in bargaining with the employer, effectively acting as a lamprey on capitalism. These days I'm not sure if this is the exception or the rule... At one time, it was the exception.
    ** there are exceptions to this rule, however, as this is the most profitable way to run a business (get the cheapest labor that will give you the desired quality), this tends to be the trend, and companies not following it will be less profitable, and therefore grow less than companies that do.

  • Re:Who's Missing? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CyprusBlue113 (1294000) on Friday January 20, 2012 @10:36AM (#38761708)

    More likely no one trusts them to be a member of a cartel and not stab them in the back.

  • by rubycodez (864176) on Friday January 20, 2012 @10:44AM (#38761834)
    news for you, that's what cartels do, they put government in their pocket! it's called corruption. all cartels involve government
  • Re:So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PPH (736903) on Friday January 20, 2012 @10:48AM (#38761898)

    No soliciting is one thing. And I don't really have a problem with that either.

    But try working in an area where employers have a 'do not hire' policy. You quit one job and everyone else tells you they won't hire ex-employees of certain companies for a period of time. You might as well step out of the bushes and surrender when you hear the slave hunters' dogs approach.

  • cartels (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pr100 (653298) on Friday January 20, 2012 @10:49AM (#38761914)

    Hang on. Isn't this essentially trying to operate a tech-labour market cartel?

  • by hedwards (940851) on Friday January 20, 2012 @11:08AM (#38762232)

    It's not a prisoner's dilemma as the parties are in regular contact and in the prisoner's dilemma a large part of it is that there is no communication between the parties. A cartel is always going to be better for the individuals than going alone, that's why they form cartels and why antitrust regulations seek to prevent it. OPEC itself has had no problems existing for decades.

  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Friday January 20, 2012 @11:09AM (#38762236) Homepage

    Only acceptable when done by employers, not employees. Got it.

  • Re:Ooooohh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Psychopath (18031) on Friday January 20, 2012 @11:12AM (#38762300) Homepage

    Get a load of that coincidence. it 'coincides' just 2 days after sopa protests, and involves almost all major technology companies that have major stakes on internet. Just like how the megaupload bust 'coincided' a day after sopa protests, yesterday.

    Your assumptions of government competence are staggering.

  • by Herkum01 (592704) on Friday January 20, 2012 @11:13AM (#38762322)

    Your kidding me right? That is what the Republican Party has been screaming about the last 4 years. They want NO regulation on anything!

    • EPA, gone.
    • Minimum wage, get rid of it.
    • Oversight for Banking, no!

    Those are just a few examples off the top of my head, I am sure that there are more. Take Ron Paul; he is in favor of getting rid of a few government agencies just for the sake of getting rid of something.

    Lets not pretend that everyone is a reasonable human being.

  • by operagost (62405) on Friday January 20, 2012 @11:13AM (#38762336) Homepage Journal
    I love the Slashdot bias. Both this and the parent post made snarky comments from both sides of the issue, but the one advocating less government intervention got modded down. I think it's hilarious that the same naiive ideologues who protest SOPA because of the dangerous control it gives the government are just fine with giving the government control over private contracts.
  • by Surt (22457) on Friday January 20, 2012 @11:27AM (#38762584) Homepage Journal

    I know, people who think having the government regulate where it benefits the little guy rather than the big are totally inconsistent idiots.

  • by webheaded (997188) on Friday January 20, 2012 @11:38AM (#38762740) Homepage
    Yes, that is also a perfectly reasonable solution. It's really easy to just real quick quit and start a new company. You make this sound like you can set it up in a fucking weekend. Are you serious? It turns out that taking your ball and going home is not always a particularly great solution. Not everyone has the time, ambition, or knowledge to start their own company. The fact that you can't start your own company does not mean that the people you are working for should be able to screw you over. That's absurd.
  • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Friday January 20, 2012 @11:51AM (#38762970)

    Your argument supposes (wrongly) that other companies would not prefer to pay lower wages as well. Without regulation new companies will simply join the collusion against employees, and the overall average wage will remain depreciated indefinitely, they have no incentive to offer more money if they can simply join the scheme and pay less like everyone else. The net effect is to drive down the pay/productivity of employees, and thereby drive up profits.

    This agreement appears to be a followup to the now defunct rules that were 'non compete' clauses (that were, but afaik not legal in California anymore*). Those had the same net effect - you couldn't change employers quickly and if you tried you'd be potentially out several months or years salary in doing so. Since non competes have been around as long as I've been in the IT business (which is getting on to 15 years now) this has, in various forms, been going on for a very long time, and the market doesn't seem to have corrected itself. Actually, it's exactly what I said, in that time new companies emerged, (say, google) and were folded into the grand scheme by the existing players (intel, adobe, Apple and so on). The details of the scheme changed, but it's the same scheme. Sure, they still drive up prices for employees competing for talent to some degree - but not as much as they would have without the protection for employers either from non compete contracts or from collusion.

    A free market is free to have a massive coordinated effort by those with money to operate from an unfair position against those who don't have money. Preventing the unfair coordination is the point of (some) regulation.

    *I don't live in the US, or California, and never have (or will). My recollection on the details of these rules is hazy as it won't ever directly effect me.

  • Re:So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sarten-X (1102295) on Friday January 20, 2012 @11:57AM (#38763078) Homepage

    Just like with unions, problems aren't a reason to reject the notion entirely. Regulate them, instead.

    I'd like to see enforced regulation of no-poach agreements. Sure, you can prevent others from hiring people who quit your workplace - but you'll need to keep paying them after they leave, regardless of why they left. If your company's talent and secrets are worth enough that you'll screw up someone's career, they should be worth throwing a bit of money after.

    Yes, it'll annoy the free-market crowd here, but I'm generally in favor of more regulation everywhere - as long as it's determined by competent regulators who understand the field they're working with.

  • Re:So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shaitand (626655) on Friday January 20, 2012 @12:08PM (#38763306) Journal

    How do you define poaching. After all, regardless of who initiates the conversation it is always the corporation that extends the offer so you could say any hiring is poaching.

    This kind of thing could make you unhirable to the best market for your skills. If you work for a vendor supporting their product that vendor will typically require a non-compete from you and a non-poaching agreement from all their partners... basically everyone who wants the skills you have. There will be a time limit on this, maybe 5 yrs but this is tech. 5yr old expertise is the same as not having any.

  • by cusco (717999) <brian...bixby@@@gmail...com> on Friday January 20, 2012 @12:41PM (#38763920)
    Free markets do work, they have worked, and they will work.

    [citation needed]

    Seriously, when have free markets ever resulted in anything other than a monopoly within a very few years of the foundation of a very wealthy competitor in the market? I can't think of a single instance where a free market ever led to an improvement for either customers or competitors over the long term. Short term, sure, but as soon as someone with enough money to manipulate that particular market sector notices the opportunity you may as well sell your shop and invest the proceeds in the up-and-coming monopolist.
  • Re:So what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by s73v3r (963317) <s73v3r@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Friday January 20, 2012 @12:50PM (#38764092)

    No. Just no. Essentially, you're saying that corporations should not have to work as hard to actually keep their employees. That just seems flat out wrong.

    These agreements infringe upon the employee's Right to Work.

    In my opinion, the agreements shouldn't prevent Apple from hiring a Google employee (or even offering a great deal)

    Except... that's what they do.

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