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Apple, Google Agree To Settle Lawsuit Alleging Hiring Conspiracy 108

Posted by samzenpus
from the have-some-money dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A group of tech companies including Google and Apple have agreed to settle an antitrust lawsuit over no-hire agreements in Silicon Valley. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. From the article: 'Tech workers filed a class action lawsuit against Apple Inc, Google Inc, Intel Inc and Adobe Systems Inc in 2011, alleging they conspired to refrain from soliciting one another's employees in order to avert a salary war. Trial had been scheduled to begin at the end of May on behalf of roughly 64,000 workers in the class.'"
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Apple, Google Agree To Settle Lawsuit Alleging Hiring Conspiracy

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  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @08:17PM (#46837447) Journal
    Just, um, incidentally, all those checks are uniquely serialized and anyone who cashes one really isn't showing themselves to be a team player or a good fit with company culture, now are they?
    • by pepty (1976012) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @08:29PM (#46837517)
      job application question #12: Have you ever sued your employer?
      • Maybe this just reflects a cultural distaste for lawyers; but "Yeah, I shot a guy once, in self defense" might actually play better than "Yeah, I sued an employer once, in self defense", even if both statements are equally true.
        • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @09:56PM (#46837953)

          "I shot an employer." "In self defense" "Yeah, that's what I made it look like"

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Arker (91948)
          I could be wrong, I am not in HR and insanity is rampant, but I am at least hoping that is one of the questions they do not even read the answer to.

          The entire point is presumably simply to give you an opportunity to lie on the record. If you have sued an employer in the past, being human and thus stupid, you are likely to lie on your application to get your job. On the other hand they are extremely unlikely to spend the money for anything like a serious investigation of your answers before hiring you.

          But if
          • by Wootery (1087023)

            The entire point is presumably simply to give you an opportunity to lie on the record. If you have sued an employer in the past, being human and thus stupid, you are likely to lie on your application to get your job.

            (Annoying font sanitised.)

            Where is anyone suggesting that employers will be allowed to ask if you've sued former employers? (If this was in either of the articles, I missed it.)

      • by Anonymous Coward

        job application question #12: Have you ever sued your employer?

        "No"

        A more accurate question would be "Have you ever participated in a lawsuit against your employer?"

      • by CBravo (35450)
        Just counter that with: "Well, employers are just like other people. And I happened to to be employed by a bad example who tried to f*** me over. I presume you are more reliable?"
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Just, um, incidentally, all those checks are uniquely serialized and anyone who cashes one really isn't showing themselves to be a team player or a good fit with company culture, now are they?

      I only cashed the check because to object to the class action settlement could expose my prior employer to the legal discovery process. I was taking one for the team!

  • by Virtucon (127420) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @08:18PM (#46837453)

    It should read: "Google and Apple agree to settle after seeing mountain of evidence against them."

    Likewise their statements will read something like: "We have agreed to settle this lawsuit in the hopes that it will bring closure to this situation and while we did nothing wrong we will amend our policies to treat all workers fairly. That is until we get caught again."

    • by kerrbear (163235) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @08:29PM (#46837511)
      Really burns me up when companies cry "Free Market! Free Market!" then conspire to make the market less free. Hey Apple, how about if all the manufacturing companies conspire to keep their prices the same so you can't make any deals. Oh, but that would make you angry wouldn't it.
      • by StillAnonymous (595680) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @08:39PM (#46837561)

        They pull this hypocritical card all the time. If prices on something are high, they just dismiss with "supply and demand, econ 101, deal with it, blah blah". Then they go and purchase laws that prevent competition, and other laws to prevent you from importing the product from overseas for a cheaper price.

        On the other hand, when there's a low supply of skilled of workers (or even if there isn't), rather than raising salaries to attract the talent, they again purchase laws that allow to bring overseas employees into the picture and screw over the local workers once again.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          This is the invisible hand truly at work once again !
          The free market is one-armed: it is missing the hand that gives.

      • The cartel door swings both ways. Too bad it always hits us, consumer or employee, in the face.

        • by jafac (1449)

          This is what unions are for.

          • Unions, in their current form, are not what their goal was. Essentially they're part of the corrupted system, they're basically self-serving extortion organizations that in the end aid the large corporations. Have you ever noticed that most "strong" unions exist in areas where it would take very little to open up a competing organization, but you simply cannot because some union makes it impossible to get any non-unionized labor and as a "small" player you can't afford the huge unionized overhead?

            At the sam

      • by Laxori666 (748529)
        It actually is totally fine in a free market for a group of companies to conspire to set prices. Such arrangements are inherently unstable as each side has the incentive to cheat, plus competition from other companies will ultimately end the arrangement. So far, so good - still a free market. The issue only comes in cases like sibling's post, when they actually purchase laws that prevent competition or to sanction their agreements. Plus, yes, if Apple filed an antitrust suit against manufacturing companies
        • You live in a fairy-tale land where the market will always self-correct. Companies with a price arrangement are typically in a Nash equilibrium, which essentially means that there is no incentive to cheat as both parties know they are worse off if they cheat the other party. If I am in a pricing agreement with another company, and I break it by lowering my prices, I know that we will go into a downward spiral of lowered prices until we settle on a level that has less profit for either of us.

          This leaves co

      • The market was still free. Everyone was free to seek a better job at a competing company. Nothing was stopping them. A few companies decided not to COLD CALL each others employees. People at Apple were free to go interview at Google, and people at Google were free to go interview at Apple. Everyone was completely free to negotiate whatever price the market would bear.

        It comes down to this: There was a small group of people who were willing to ditch their current company for a pay raise, and now they h

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      two things fucked up. a) there should be no settling.
      b). SECRET TERMS AND FUCKING 64 000 PEOPLE REPRESENTED!

      what the fuck? furthermore, isn't such action actually criminally-criminal in USA or is this just 100% civil case?

      • by plover (150551)

        So what you're saying is they secretly reached a secret agreement to keep secret the terms of the not-quite-secret agreements.

      • by Virtucon (127420)

        Labor laws in this country aren't what they used to be. Since this did occur in California I'm sure that there will be criminal prosecution of some sort on this however don't let that fool you into thinking that somebody will be held accountable for this. Use the recent bank mortgage fiasco as an example where large banks essentially settled with many states en-mass to avoid jail time for the execs. Of course those settlements aren't secret however it still allows a company to settle without admitting t

    • by maz2331 (1104901) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @10:42PM (#46838149)

      My question is: where the HELL is the Labor Department and the Commerce Department on all this? The small company I work at went through a month of poking, prodding, audits, etc. by the Dept. of Labor looking for overtime violations or miscategorizing employees as salary vs. hourly, and all they found was $2000 over 3 years, and even that was questionable.

      • by unrtst (777550)

        My question is: where the HELL is the Labor Department and the Commerce Department on all this? The small company I work at went through a month of poking, prodding, audits, etc. by the Dept. of Labor looking for overtime violations or miscategorizing employees as salary vs. hourly, and all they found was $2000 over 3 years, and even that was questionable.

        Questionable, but manageable. Can you imagine how long it'd take them to do a similar audit on a company the size of Google?!?! Some guy got to do your company over, get paid that whole time, and come way with something possitive (could have went the other way)... so it's a win/win for him/labor-commerce, and $2000 doesn't even hurt your company much. It's not right, but it makes sense.

      • My question is: where the HELL is the Labor Department and the Commerce Department on all this?

        Probably in Hawaii at a Google or Apple sponsored "conference".

    • by rhizome (115711)

      If you're seething about a low settlement, blame the law firm representing the class, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, who have a history of engineering small settlements for huge cases.

      It's kayfabe, LCHB is a shill acting in the defendant's interest.

  • No fault? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by donaggie03 (769758) <d_osmeyer@hotmail.cFREEBSDom minus bsd> on Thursday April 24, 2014 @08:22PM (#46837473)
    Let me guess: the settlement specifically states that they admit to no fault right?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      And all the employees who were affected get credits on Apple App store and Google's Play store.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      these fellows should be charged with collusion. its nothing less. their both in the cell phone and peripheral devices markets, their both agreeing to terms which will effect consumer prices.

      no fucking way a company of this size should EVER be able to settle with undisclosed terms.

      fuck you ungle sam. you're sleeping on the job

  • by manu0601 (2221348) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @08:23PM (#46837485)
    Is it possible to keep secret a deal with 64000 persons? That should leak.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    We admit no wrongdoing and promise not to get caught again.
    The lawers took most of the cash.
    The rest of you got coupons for apple and google products.
    And you can never ever tell anyone you were involved in this at all.

    Yay justice!

    • Re:Settled. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pepty (1976012) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @08:41PM (#46837571)
      One type of tort reform I would really like to see is parity in rewards between attorneys and the class in class action suits.

      1. Parity in time. Lawyers don't get paid til the class gets paid. If it's a medical case and the payout is a trust to pay off medical claims over decades, then the lawyers get paid fractionally as those medical claims are paid. If the lawyers want their money right now they are free to securitize that revenue stream and sell it, probably for 65 cents on the dollar.

      2. Parity in kind. If the class receives coupons, services, or goods then the lawyers receive their payment in the same coupons, services or goods. If the lawyers would prefer cash they had better settle for cash; otherwise they can sell their coupons on Ebay for pennies on the dollar.

      3. Parity in proportion: The class receives a minimum of 50% of the settlement. Distribution costs don't count toward that 50%.

      • by artor3 (1344997)

        The point of a class action suit is to punish the transgressor. No one victim is harmed enough for the suit to be worthwhile, but society still has an interest in dissuading future bad behavior. The suits are often long and complicated. If you don't pay the lawyers well, then you won't get good lawyers working for the class. Meanwhile, the corporation WILL have good lawyers.

        Insistence that lawyers should make less money from class actions may be well-intentioned, but the result would just be corporation

        • Re:Settled. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by pepty (1976012) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @11:03PM (#46838237)

          The problem is the scale of the incentive for the lawyers becomes meaningless if those lawyers are allowed to pursue their own interests above those of the class they supposedly represent. Compare that to the corporations' lawyers - how well are they rewarded for fucking over their clients? The class's lawyers also don't necessarily perform a service to the public, since settlements usually keep the discovered details of the transgression secret. To prevent that problem the interests of the lawyers should be kept tied so close to those of the class that you can't cut the class without the lawyers needing stitches. Hence rules of parity. I'm all for class action attorneys getting paid a whopping big portion of the payouts, but it should reflect what they have done for the class, not what they have done for themselves. Those are just the suggestions I've come up with - do you have better ones?

          Also: often members of the class were injured enough for individual suits to have already been filed; those suits are then combined into a class action suit. The suits that result in nothing but coupons for the class rarely serve any meaningful purpose: the class (except for the lead plaintiffs) receives no meaningful benefits; the transgressors don't pay out enough for it to serve as inducement for better behavior, don't admit to anything, and aren't forced to reveal the evidence showing what they actually did. If as a result of my suggestions fewer lawyers are willing to pursue class actions like those the loss would be outweighed by the gains. The more merit the class action has, the less of a burden the rules would be to the attorneys.

        • Then don't bother with financial penalties, but make the individuals involved run the gauntlet [wikipedia.org]
          âZ
          With 32,000 on either side they'd take quite a hammering. Shame shame!

        • by pepty (1976012)

          Actually, it turns out coupon settlements were rained in a bit: Wiki:

          "the portion of any attorney’s fee award to class counsel that is attributable to the award of the coupons shall be based on the value to class members of the coupons that are redeemed." 28 U.S.C.A. 1712(a).

          That addresses the problem that perhaps 10% of the issued coupons are redeemed, but leaves out the problem that the cash value of the coupons might still be much less than the face value, even amongst members of the class that bothered to redeem them. If the same $10 dollar coupon could be bought on ebay for $1, that's the cash value of that coupon.

          .

      • Re:Settled. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by nodwick (716348) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @10:11PM (#46838031)
        While your suggestions would certainly help align the incentives of the class action lawyers with those of the plaintiffs, they largely don't apply in this case. The Lucasfilm and Pixar settlements (which the latest settlement is considered likely to structured in a similar way to) was in cash and saw 45% of the settlement go to lawyers and legal fees, so your conditions above are met. However, many people are finding it strange that the legal team would have settled this case instead of fighting it out, given how much evidence was available. A New York Times article [nytimes.com] details the dollar amounts:

        Four of the largest technology companies tentatively settled on Thursday a class action brought by 64,000 of their engineers, who accused them of agreeing not to solicit one another’s employees. The amount of the settlement was not released, but people with knowledge of the deal said it was in the neighborhood of $300 million.

        [...]

        As a result of all these machinations, the suit claimed, the mobility and income of the engineers suffered. A guilty verdict in a trial might have meant the defendants would have had to pay triple damages of as much as $9 billion.

        The settlement resulted in an average payout (after fees) of ~$2300 per engineer, while fighting out the case and winning would have netted closer to $77k per engineer after fees. The engineers would have had to have just a 3% chance of winning the suit for it to be worthwhile to proceed with the case, and their odds of winning would almost certainly have been substantially higher. However, for the law firm, fighting out the case would have consumed many more billable hours than settling, so their payout (per billable hour) would not have been nearly as high if they won, and they faced a huge loss in terms of unpaid hours spent if the case was litigated and lost. That the lawyers decided to settle rather than continue to pursue the suit is a rational decision for them, but much less so for the plaintiffs they represented.

        • by pepty (1976012)
          I don't know if a rule could do more good than harm in that type of situation.
  • by MindPrison (864299) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @08:52PM (#46837623) Journal
    ...if they knew my search history.

    Oh wait...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    TFA says:

    roughly 64,000 workers in the class

    If the universe has any sense of humor, it'll turn out to be exactly 65536 workers in the class.

  • by jmd (14060) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @08:59PM (#46837661)

    If ten people can sit around a table and decide what to pay me, I should be able to have 10 people sit around a table and decide what I will work for.

    You know corporations rig the game. Do you still see unions in a bad light now?

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @09:16PM (#46837765)

      If ten people can sit around a table and decide what to pay me, I should be able to have 10 people sit around a table and decide what I will work for.

      You know corporations rig the game. Do you still see unions in a bad light now?

      I'm not sure. I live in Detroit and they look pretty bad when the when the power company turns the lights on, but luckily that's pretty rare.

      • by litehacksaur111 (2895607) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @11:24PM (#46838311)
        Then why do professional athletes, physicians, pharmacists, lawyers, etc have unions or occupation specific associations. It seems that IT workers think they are too smart to join a union or they are so super concerned that 1 person might freeload off their contract, so they are ready to spite their face to save their nose.
        • by E-Rock (84950)

          Are the professional associations to protect them from their employers or to exclude competitors?

        • by unrtst (777550)

          It seems that IT workers think they are too smart to join a union or they are so super concerned that 1 person might freeload off their contract, so they are ready to spite their face to save their nose.

          The current state of unions is, IMO, worse than the two party system in America.
          The basic idea of a union is excelent - but that basic implementation is now illegal. You can't simple band together workers and strike. You must have a propper union, and that's where it all goes downhill. Now part of your pay has to go to dues, and you're required to do so. Why? The people holding the purse have it in their best interests to keep their employment, union position, and keep dues coming in (which means keep your

    • by alvinrod (889928)
      Unions aren't inherently good or bad. They can accomplish both good in ensuring that workers receive fair wages and that companies provide a safe work environment, but they are just as capable of protecting incompetent workers and demanding their members out of their jobs.

      Personally I believe that unions should neither be forbidden or required. However, like too many other things it seems that the people who feel strongly about such things want an all or nothing approach in one direction or the other.
      • by Uberbah (647458)

        but they are just as capable of protecting incompetent workers and demanding their members out of their job

        Except that's the sort of tired anti-union claptrap the parent might have been referring to. Incompetence: how many workers do you know who are happy to do someone else's work in addition to their own? Out of their jobs: on some planet where unions accepting cuts to preserve jobs isn't a constant story in this country? Where cuts to public sector unions aren't being made to pay for the tax cuts for

    • by Anonymous Coward
      As someone who recently worked in a union IT shop, the union did fuck all when I was laid off. They made up reasons to terminate me, blaming me for project failures that I didn't even work on. Union rep just sat there and said nothing the entire time. Know why? They work for the same people and no one rocks the boat in a at-will state. What about the contract you say? We didn't have one as management delayed contract negotiations again and again.
    • Only, that's not what happened. No one said anything about fixing salaries. They just agreed to not go out of their way to steal employees from each other. Nothing stopped you from going to one of the ten to get whatever price the market would bear.

      And you are free to have ten people sit around a table and decide what price you are willing to work for.

  • by marciot (598356) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @09:10PM (#46837735)

    "In one email exchange after a Google recruiter solicited an Apple employee, Schmidt told Jobs that the recruiter would be fired, court documents show. Jobs then forwarded Schmidt's note to a top Apple human resources executive with a smiley face."

    The story behind the smiley face is that Steve Jobs now knew exactly what disgruntled ex-recruiter he could hire to solicit Google employees on behalf of Apple.

  • Did anyone opt out of the class action? If so, they can still sue.

    • by alvinrod (889928)
      If they were a former employee, sure, but I can't imagine anyone currently working at either company who would be willing to throw their job away. They obviously won't be fired over the lawsuit, but in a few months some HR drone will have started to find some performance or behavior problems that will eventually lead to their termination.
  • by mark_reh (2015546) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @10:03PM (#46837983) Journal

    I worked at HP in the early 90s and they used to announce to us that their HR people had sat down with HR people from many other large engineering employers (including Intel, Cisco, etc.) in the Bay Area and throughout the US to define job descriptions and pay and benefits packages. I thought it was bullshit, but most of fellow employees didn't think much of it because the next part of the announcement was the 3% annual pay raise everyone was going to get.

    If there are any lawyers out there looking to prepare a similar suit, let me know!

  • The only answer to antitrust is simple - break those companies apart and KEEP THEM APART.

    No settlement should be allowed.

  • "Let's both admit that in all our lawsuits, neither of us had done anything other than license Taipei rights to a third party" I have been following Digitimes for years, this is not about "rounded corners", it's about Taiwanese touchscreen tech.
  • 64K tech people have jobs, so they are not as desperate as Apple and Google are to not get their dirty laundry out. And since both companies have more cash than US gov't, obviously this was never going to trial.

    Interestingly, Apple posted quarterly financials today ... so how much this has cost them we won't know for 90 days... and even then it will probably be well hidden.

  • by Moof123 (1292134) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @11:09PM (#46838269)

    I know it is getting comical to ask, but shouldn't the CEO's that are still alive face jail time? Same for the heads of HR that went along with this crap?

  • The "class" is a bit bigger than the direct set of 64,000 affected. For most jobs, "reasonable and customary" was taken as the California wage which was then discounted for the folks NOT working in California. Working on the east coast, you would of course receive less than the folks in Silly Valley. And because your starting salary was artificially depressed, then you would of course receive a substantially lower sum over the span of your career. The one time I was given an actual raise of more than a few
  • by byteherder (722785) on Friday April 25, 2014 @04:49PM (#46844285)
    If I was a CEO of a Tech company, I would be calling up all the other CEOs and saying, "Let's do this again". Why? $2.7 billion reason why.

    Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe conspired to hold down salaries of their employees, saving their respective companies $3 billion. When they got caught, they paid a $300million settlement and walked away. Net saving $2.7 billion. No admission of guilt, no one goes to jail, no one gets fired.

    There is no deterrence for them to not do it again. No penalty, just a slap on the wrist. The penalty has to be at least the damage down in real terms. When you conspire to do something illegal and they only penalty is that you make $2.7 more in profit, you will never, never stop this behavior.
  • MNCs are Pyramid/Ponzi scandals in Globalization

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