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Apple and Google Face Salary-Fixing Lawsuit 402

Posted by timothy
from the only-legal-when-the-government-does-it dept.
beaverdownunder writes "Google, Apple, Adobe and Intel have been accused of maintaining an agreement not to poach each other's staff, thus restricting increases in salary and restricting career development. California District Judge Lucy Koh has found that the plaintiffs have adequately demonstrated antitrust injury. Sparked by a request from the late Steve Jobs, from 2005 to 2007 the defendants had a 'no cold-call' policy of staff recruitment amongst themselves. Jobs is also alleged to have threatened Palm with litigation for not entering into a 'no cold-call' agreement with Apple." Besides the companies named above, Intuit, Pixar, and Lucasfilm are also involved.
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Apple and Google Face Salary-Fixing Lawsuit

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  • by Surt (22457) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @10:30AM (#39762867) Homepage Journal

    Seriously, it doesn't get much more clearly evil. I think they've effectively ruined their corporate image with this.

    • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @10:35AM (#39762895)

      Seriously, it doesn't get much more clearly evil.

      Do a little checking into Sony before you deem this the pinnacle of evil.

      I think they've effectively ruined their corporate image with this.

      Oh please. Both of these companies have done much worse. Most customers aren't going to care all that much if some high-priced high-tech employees didn't get to leverage one company against another for a job.

      What they did was wrong - all of them (there were others besides Apple & Google), and this will be another ethics wakeup call to corporate America ... until the next scheme crosses one of their minds.

      • by Surt (22457)

        It's not the height of evil, that wasn't my claim. My claim was only that this was starkly beyond the gray zone.

      • Do a little checking into Sony before you deem this the pinnacle of evil.

        No need to. Just read it again: "clearly evil" doesn't mean "pinnacle of evil". It just means clearly evil.

        Mods, get off the crack (I'm referring to the guy being modded down for giving you morons a lesson in fucking reading comprehension)

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @10:42AM (#39762951) Journal
      Seriously? This is the most evil thing Apple or Google has done? Let me guess, you're looking for a job in Silicon Valley...
      • by Surt (22457)

        It's the most clearly evil thing I know of Google doing. Apple has done plenty worse, but they don't make any claim to not being evil the way google does.

        • by swillden (191260)

          It's the most clearly evil thing I know of Google doing. Apple has done plenty worse, but they don't make any claim to not being evil the way google does.

          Does one evil act make someone evil? If that's the standard, then absolutely everyone is evil, and evilness becomes a useless yardstick.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Google's done plenty of evil things over the years...

          - Manipulating the yahoo executives to tank Microsoft takeover: if you are a yahoo shareholder, that one ranks right up there.
          - If you were a user of any of the sites which they bought and closed down (JaiKu, Gears, Lively, Wave, etc, etc)
          - Supporting proposals (e.g, w/ Verison), that gut net neutrality rules for new wireless internet services.
          - Using their corporate muscle to buy discount landing rights at Moffett field for their founders plane to land a

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Seriously, it doesn't get much more clearly evil. I think they've effectively ruined their corporate image with this.

      I assume you were just being a little overzealous this morning (assuming you are in the US), but that is so wrong that I doubt even you really believe it. Whether you want to compare this no-poaching agreement with FoxConn or with the even more evil period of slavery in our country, there are probably numerous example every day of companies being more "evil" than this.

      That said, I hope they are penalized harshly for this, and not just in the court of public opinion. Because as someone else already said, I

    • by whisper_jeff (680366) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @01:23PM (#39764353)

      Seriously, it doesn't get much more clearly evil.

      Ok, seriously, I'm not defending what they did but "evil"? Really? Come on! Can we please get some sense of perspective. What they did was wrong. What they did was possibly morally unethical. But evil? No. Evil is reserved for a special breed of person/organization/action. What they did was not evil. All you're doing by branding them "evil" is utterly watering down the meaning of the word and completely weakening your stance.

      Seriously.

      • Oh right, what these corporations did was "somewhat evil" but not "completely, totally evil". Right, we understand that. Now lets move on to the "illegal" aspect of it.

        • Way to miss my point - I'll spell it out for you - it was NOT evil. Not somewhat. Not a little bit. Not "in my opinion". It was NOT evil.

  • by dryriver (1010635) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @10:45AM (#39762981)
    For example, Nvidia and ATI could have agreed - in secret - that neither company shall surpass the other's current flagship 3D card by a speed improvement greater than 5%. They could also have agreed that the most speed gain to be put on the 3D card market, in any one year, shall be no greater than 15% higher than the previous year. What about realtime hardware raytracing for games? Both companies may already have prototype 3D hardware capable of this. But they may have agreed amongst themselves - again in secret - that nobody will put a realtime raytracing based 3D card on the market before 2018. ------- Given what little we, the public, know about "secret agreements" between these supposedly "competing" companies, there may very well be a graphics card or CPU prototype in some lab somewhere that runs 2 - 5 times faster than the fastest hardware currently on the market. But, by honoring a "secret agreement" between competitors, nobody would release that hyperfast graphics card or CPU into the market before the year 2020. That would buy these companies "8 years" worth of steady profiteering from releasing incrementally improved hardware (i.e. each time you buy a new CPU or gfx card, you only get a 15 - 25% speed improvement, rather than a 200 - 500% improvement). Does this sound like a Conspiracy Theory? Of course it does. But could it actually be true? Yes, I believe that there is a chance that precisely this kind of "lets all take it slow with hardware speed improvements" agreement between competitors could be real.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 22, 2012 @11:25AM (#39763329)

      In the 90's I was working at Sun Microsystems, and I had gotten a call for a job at Cisco because a colleague had recommended me (unbeknownst to me). When I told the recruiter who had phoned me that I was currently at Sun, she said "oh, we can't hire you until you get permission from Scott to talk to us. Scott and John have an agreement to not go after each others employees."

      So these things have been around a while.

    • by allanw (842185)
      Doubt it. The consumer electronics industry, including CPUs and GPUs, is keeping well in pace with the technology developed by semiconductor companies. Each new process node nowadays costs up to ten billion dollars to develop and put into production, and it's highly doubtful anyone is secretly hiding years of advancement over publically known technology. Now, if you want to talk about the companies keeping "hyperfast" architectures in wraps for slow release, then that is plausible, although still, highly do
      • It's also worth noting that companies that do try to impose this kind of limit have a habit of dying. nVidia should know - they killed one of them. SGI wanted to keep cheap GPUs underpowered to keep their margins high at the top end. nVidia came along and destroyed the top end market by making GPUs that were almost as good at a tiny fraction of the price.
  • Unless all employees are in the class and assumed to increase their salaries 10% during the time frame; the resulting lawsuit/settlement has little to no chance of being more expensive then if all the companies had been competing for talent as it will be extremely difficult to prove financial damages. I am very disappointed in the DOJ settling this one with little more then a "don't do it again" as they may have been the only way to stop this cold going forward.

  • Misnomer (Score:5, Funny)

    by BenBoy (615230) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @10:58AM (#39763107)
    From the wikipedia article: [wikipedia.org]

    Only wild animals can be poached. Stealing or killing domestic animals is considered to be theft ("cattle rustling"), not poaching.

    They're nerd rustling. Hence the (now trademarked) "Yahoo!"

  • by Luthair (847766) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @11:05AM (#39763171)

    The seven companies were also investigated in this connection by the U.S. Department of Justice, and they settled in 2010 while admitting no wrongdoing, but agreed not to ban cold calling and not to enter into any agreements that prevent competition for employees.

    Is anyone else sick of seeing this type of solution? Bank robbers aren't allowed to go free if they don't admit wrong doing but promise not to rob anymore banks in the future. There is no disincentive if the companies (and the people making these agreements) aren't punished for their behaviour.

  • This is hardly new (Score:5, Informative)

    by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @11:06AM (#39763177)

    My grandpa had to move clear across the country back in the 50s because of "no poaching" deals in the aircraft industry on the east coast. The only way to advance was for someone above you in your company to retire/die/quit/get fired then they'd fill the gap. And no worries for the company about having to provide competitive wages. If they caught someone sniffing around another company, the person was fired and blacklisted. If someone from another company came sniffing around, they'd call the other company and the person would be fired and blacklisted. It's pretty close to creating a slave labor force. Sure, the shackles are padded but it's very demoralizing to know that trying to advance your career could end it.

    • My grandpa had to move clear across the country back in the 50s because of "no poaching" deals in the aircraft industry on the east coast. The only way to advance was for someone above you in your company to retire/die/quit/get fired then they'd fill the gap. And no worries for the company about having to provide competitive wages. If they caught someone sniffing around another company, the person was fired and blacklisted. If someone from another company came sniffing around, they'd call the other company and the person would be fired and blacklisted. It's pretty close to creating a slave labor force. Sure, the shackles are padded but it's very demoralizing to know that trying to advance your career could end it.

      I'm not that old, but I would hazard a guess that the aircraft industry in the 50's was as hot or better than IT is today.

      It's not fair in a relative sense, and we can safely argue amongst our peers the value of our work, but the upper middle class complaining about padded shackles is a lot like the CEO of BP wanting his life back.

      • by cellocgw (617879)

        I'm not that old, but I would hazard a guess that the aircraft industry in the 50's was as hot or better than IT is today.

        It's not fair in a relative sense, and we can safely argue amongst our peers the value of our work, but the upper middle class complaining about padded shackles is a lot like the CEO of BP wanting his life back.
        OK, then, try another analogy. Look at the lifetime contract rules in place in MLB until Curt Flood finally got them nullified. Look at the difference in player salaries before

  • by anthony_greer (2623521) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @11:16AM (#39763253)

    These conracts couldnt ever really work if people were allowed talk salary...There is nothing for me that is more awkward than when I have to answer that question from a prospective employer about salary, I don't know if I am really too high for the market or if he is BSing me to pay me less...

    I just wish people were a little less shy about talking salary...am i worth 70 80 or 110k per year? I honestly don't know, so I just take a guess, its like throwing darts, I cant really put much stock in sites like CBSalaries and Glassdoor because I dont know where they get their data, how do I know it isnt just the companies putting in low ball salaries?

    • by Surt (22457) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @11:28AM (#39763357) Homepage Journal

      When you look at glass door, you look at the range. Let's say it's 80k-210k for 5 years experience in silicon valley area. You discount the low end of the range, that's probably low-balling efforts by companies. You discount the high end, that's people bragging, or factoring in positive stock outcomes in order to inflate their self worth. You look at the average value, say 123, add about 10% (to account for the sandbagging). So call that 135. Then you ask yourself, am I better than the average, or worse? Add an appropriate percentage. Let's say you're a little better than average, but you know you're not a superstar. Bump yourself up another 10%. Call that 150.

      You've now arrived at a reasonably fair value, in spite of the distortions present in the system.

      Also, if you have any friends in your industry but not at your company, you can ask them (and discount about 10-20% for the bragging factor).

    • by Shavano (2541114)

      I know of many companies (including my own) that have policies against openly discussing salaries between employees at the same level. But there's really no way to stop it when employees are away from the office. It's just that Cathy can't mention the fact that Mike makes more than her up when she's negotiating pay with her manager. Nor can anybody stop the sharing of this information between employees of two different companies as long as it takes place out of sight of management.

      The biggest discrepanci

    • by Animats (122034) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @01:55PM (#39764637) Homepage

      These contracts couldn't ever really work if people were allowed talk salary

      Of course you can talk salary. It's a legal right in the US. (29 U.S.C.157). Here's the NRLB workplace poster [nlrb.gov]. Report employer violations to 1-866-667-NLRB (6572) .

      Under the NLRA, you have the right to:

      • Organize a union to negotiate with your employer concerning your wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.
      • Form, join or assist a union.
      • Bargain collectively through representatives of employeesâ(TM) own choosing for a contract with your employer setting your wages, benefits, hours, and other working conditions.
      • Discuss your wages and benefits and other terms and conditions of employment or union organizing with your co-workers or a union.
      • Take action with one or more co-workers to improve your working conditions by, among other means, raising work-related complaints directly with your employer or with a government agency, and seeking help from a union.
      • Strike and picket, depending on the purpose or means of the strike or the picketing.
      • Choose not to do any of these activities, including joining or remaining a member of a union.

      Illegal conduct will not be permitted. If you believe your rights or the rights of others have been violated, you should contact the NLRB promptly to protect your rights, generally within six months of the unlawful activity. You may inquire about possible violations without your employer or anyone else being informed of the inquiry. Charges may be filed by any person and need not be filed by the employee directly affected by the violation. The NLRB may order an employer to rehire a worker fired in violation of the law and to pay lost wages and benefits, and may order an employer or union to cease violating the law. Employees should seek assistance from the nearest regional NLRB office, which can be found on the Agencyâ(TM)s Web site: http://www.nlrb.gov/ [nlrb.gov] You can also contact the NLRB by calling toll-free: 1-866-667-NLRB (6572) or (TTY) 1-866-315-NLRB (1-866-315-6572) for hearing impaired.

      NRLB enforcement was weak under the Bush Administration. Now they're back. Here's a case where an employer fired someone for posting about working conditions on Facebook. The NLRB forced the employer to rehire them with back pay. [nlrb.gov]

    • In such a negotiation, you never want to give your salary requirement first.

      Possible answers are

      "This is not the same position as my last job, so I don't think my last salary is really relevent"
      "Let us discuss requirements and expectations first before discussing salary"
      "I am very interested in the position, and I am sure you will pay in line with the market -- a fair and reasonable amount"
      "I am sure you know what this position is worth to your company and that's important for me to know. I am sure that you

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...of what a truly despicable person Steve Jobs was.

  • by XiaoMing (1574363)

    A giant "anti-trust" lawsuit regarding only a "no cold-call" policy? This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard.

    All that means is that when someone is happily working at the job they actually applied for, they wouldn't be teased by some other company offering them more money.
    It says NOTHING about if an employee was fired, and once again applied for a job at a competitor, whether they would take him/her or not (which would most likely be a resounding yes).
    Nor does it imply anything in the situation where a

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @12:49PM (#39764033)

    It's been going on for a long time.

    There was Section 1706 of the 1986 Tax Reform Act. Just recently there was a bill before congress to eliminate overtime for IT employees. Nobody else, just IT employees.

    The entire H-1B visa workers scam was manufactured to bash tech employees.

    The reason that techies are so easy to stomp, is that techies are not organized. Accountants, lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers, and so on, are organized, and they can protect themselves (to some extent) against conspiring employers. Techies will never learn.

    • by superwiz (655733)

      The entire H-1B visa workers scam was manufactured to bash tech employees.

      Not to bash -- to force them to compete for salaries and working conditions with indentured servants (people for whom getting fired means getting deported). If it just "bashed" them it wouldn't be nearly as harsh. If someone resides in a country and is allowed to work there, they are not "guest workers". They are resident aliens. And they deserve the appropriate status -- a green card. If foreign IT workers could leave work and not be afraid that firing means getting their family uprooted, that would do

    • Just recently there was a bill before congress to eliminate overtime for IT employees. Nobody else, just IT employees.

      The bill being referred to by the parent was the CPU act (cute acronym). The status is here [govtrack.us]. Thankfully it seems kinda stalled but three more cosponsors signed on since it was first read on Oct 20, 2011.

  • This is pretty cosa nostra as tactics go. Of course, if the agreement is limited to just cold calling, then it's a non-issue. But if it goes as far as do-not-hire, then that's quite an injury.
  • by excelsior_gr (969383) on Sunday April 22, 2012 @05:39PM (#39766137)

    From the company's perspective, they would hardly get anything done if their key staff members were switching sides all the time. From my point of view the "no cold-call" agreement makes sense. I would even go further saying that this should be a general law. If I own a small business, I would hate some big company throwing its money around at my employees, tempting them all the time. If they want to leave my company, in search for greener pa$tures, it should be THEIR initiative, not because someone planted the idea in their mind out of thin air. And I don't see how this freezes salaries and/or hinders employee development. If someone in my staff is unhappy with his job, THEY can call my competitors and ask for a job offer. They can then come to me with that offer and ask me to top it or otherwise make changes so that they stay. But having the other firms sniffing around all the time is just annoying.

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