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Steve Jobs Defied Convention, and Perhaps the Law 311

Posted by timothy
from the howso-perhaps? dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "James B. Stewart writes in the NYT that recent revelations that Steve Jobs was the driving force in a conspiracy to prevent competitors from poaching employees raises the question: If Steve Jobs were alive today, should he be in jail? Jobs 'was a walking antitrust violation. I'm simply astounded by the risks he seemed willing to take,' says Herbert Hovenkamp, a professor at the University of Iowa College of Law and an expert in antitrust law. 'Didn't he have lawyers advising him? You see this kind of behavior sometimes in small, private or family-run companies, but almost never in large public companies like Apple.' In 2007, Jobs threatened Palm with patent litigation unless Palm agreed not to recruit Apple employees, even though Palm's then-chief executive, Edward Colligan, told him that such a plan was 'likely illegal.' That same year, Jobs wrote Eric E. Schmidt, the chief executive of Google at the time, 'I would be extremely pleased if Google would stop doing this,' referring to its efforts to recruit an Apple engineer. When Jobs learned that the Google recruiter who contacted the Apple employee would be 'fired within the hour,' he responded with a smiley face. 'How could anyone have approved that?' says Hovenkamp. 'Any competent antitrust counsel would know that's illegal. And they had to know they'd get caught eventually.'" (Read more, below.)
Pickens continues: "But the anti-poaching pact was hardly Jobs's only brush with the law. Jobs behavior was at the center of an e-book price-fixing conspiracy with major publishers where a federal judge ruled that "Apple played a central role in facilitating and executing that conspiracy." (Apple has appealed the decision. The publishers all settled the case.) Jobs also figured prominently in the options backdating scandal that rocked Silicon Valley eight years ago. An investigation by Apple's lawyers cleared Jobs of wrongdoing, saying he didn't understand the accounting implications but five executives of other companies went to prison for backdating options, while Jobs was never charged.

There's no way of knowing whether Jobs, had he lived and been healthy, would have faced charges, especially since he was a recidivist. Given Jobs's immense popularity, prosecutors might not have wanted to risk a trial, says Hovenkamp. Jobs probably came closest to being prosecuted in the backdating scandal, but by then he was already known to have pancreatic cancer. Jobs' biographer Walter Isaacson notes that 'over and over, people referred to his reality distortion field.' Isaacson added, 'The rules just didn't apply to him, whether he was getting a license plate that let him use handicapped parking or building products that people said weren't possible. Most of the time he was right, and he got away with it.'"
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Steve Jobs Defied Convention, and Perhaps the Law

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  • No way of knowing? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ATMAvatar (648864) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @10:39AM (#46907819) Journal

    It seems pretty silly to ask whether Jobs would have gone to jail. Of course he wouldn't.

    Between his celebrity status and bankroll, there's a snowball's chance in hell that he could get convicted of anything, barring committing the crime right there in the courtroom.

  • by briancox2 (2417470) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @10:40AM (#46907823) Homepage Journal
    I can't seems to stop a suspicion from forming in the back of my mind that somewhere someone is trying to shift blame on the recent news of anti-trust behavior onto the one guy who is no longer here. Doesn't it take 2 to tango? In this very news story, I read that Google was complicate in the scheme of preventing a competitive job market. So let's report on the story that should be reported, please -- Who in Google is going to jail over this?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2014 @10:40AM (#46907827)

    Why do people who have achieved nothing in life love to find fault with the innovators that are the engine of modern economic growth. (Ford, Gates, Jobs), were they aggressive business people, yes. Is our world better because of them, YES !!!!

  • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @10:46AM (#46907851)

    Why do people who have achieved nothing in life love to find fault with the innovators that are the engine of modern economic growth.

    So because Hitler was the driving force behind the autobahn, VW, and the foundations of modern space exploration we should just give him a pass on that little Holocaust thing? I mean, he was even partly responsible for bringing the US out of the Great Depression!

  • Jail time?! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2014 @10:48AM (#46907861)

    Plah-ease!

    For the billionaire class, they don't go to jail for minor things like this. At best their company get fined - at the stockholder's expense: the you and me with our 401Ks and IRA with the obscene fees.

    The CEOs can commit crimes as a result of their decisions and the company gets fined, they get their bonuses and at worst, they get fire with their golden parachutes.

    Bernie Madoff only went to jail because he screwed over the billionaires. If he just went after us peons, he would just paid some fines and made off to a nice cushy estate somewhere.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2014 @10:48AM (#46907863)

    Yeah, whatever deal he made would include "no admission of wrongdoing"

  • by Immerman (2627577) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @10:49AM (#46907873)

    Seriously, where do they get off saying it's rare for big companies to do illegal shit? Name me one that *doesn't* at least walk really close to that line.

    1) break the law
    2) profit
    3) maybe get caught
    4) if caught, pay a fine of 1% of the excess profits

    Why *wouldn't* a company break the law in such circumstances? There is absolutely no reason for it to stop until it becomes routine to either fine corporations an amount much greater than the excess profits (to compensate for all the times they presumably didn't get caught), or it becomes normal to hold the executives personally liable for the corporate actions they endorsed.

  • by romanval (556418) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @10:49AM (#46907875)

    that the best programmers/software engineers are astoundingly more productive; something like 10 to 25 times faster then average ones. He obviously wanted to do what it took to retain them, since he was knew that his new product developments relied on impossibly fast deadlines.

  • by sideslash (1865434) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @10:54AM (#46907897)

    that the best programmers/software engineers are astoundingly more productive; something like 10 to 25 times faster then average ones. He obviously wanted to do what it took to retain them, since he was knew that his new product developments relied on impossibly fast deadlines.

    I have an amazing, original idea for retaining talent. Ready for this? ........ Pay them a competitive salary.

  • Re:Simple (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2014 @10:59AM (#46907909)

    That seems to be a big reason for wanting to be rich and powerful. You get to flout the rules. You see this mentality all the time, from buying a license to speed [priceonomics.com] to Leona Helmsley's assertion that only the little people pay taxes. [barrypopik.com]

  • by knightghost (861069) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @11:15AM (#46907989)

    No Enforcement = No Law

  • Re:Strange (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2014 @11:22AM (#46908021)
    The article is about how jobs subverted the law, consistently. There is hard evidence proving he did just this. This has nothing to do with discrediting, and nothing to do with government access. Stop trying to distract people from the original topic.
  • Re:Simple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2014 @11:30AM (#46908075)

    IMHO, the problem is that Jobs didn't invent light bulbs or put on a good act to be remembered. He made toys, and in 5-10 years, the "insanely great" products may be something of yesteryear. People don't remember Sony's MP3 devices which were groundbreaking, nor Creative and the Nomad Jukebox which was one of the first popular players.

    With that in mind, he seemed to leave a lot of negative legacies. His ship and the large sums of money owed on that, the handicapped parking place issue (be it real or a rumor), and the fact that he is on record for giving $0 to any charity. There isn't a Jobs foundation for the arts. Nor is there a Jobs foundation for anything. He might have donated behind the scenes, but that doesn't matter to history where it matters what is on the books.

    One can contrast him to the 19th century robber barons. They at least left behind hospitals, schools, foundations, and trusts as a legacy which persists today.

    IMHO, once his devices become items from a bygone time, there won't be much positive that Jobs will be remembered for other than yet another brutal CEO.

  • by es330td (964170) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @11:34AM (#46908095)
    The only way to fix this is for the people behind decisions to face penalties. Whether or not a corporation is considered an entity, a real person makes every decision, and only holding the people behind a decision to break the law responsible will fix this kind of behavior.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2014 @11:35AM (#46908109)

    I think Steve Jobs was a psychopathic individual.

    It wouldn't surprise me if Larry Ellison is, too.

  • by next_ghost (1868792) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @11:43AM (#46908157)

    I still believe that Jobs was a jerk and an imitator, not an "innovator" in any sense of the word. He pretty much said himself that his skill was in identifying the best things to "steal" (his word) from his competitors.

    That's what innovation is all about. Nobody can make all the puzzle pieces themselves from scratch. But if you can get the pieces from others, you can then put them together into something new.

  • by superwiz (655733) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @11:48AM (#46908175) Journal
    I would argue that selling the products was also a stepping stone for him. He was more concerned with building great products. That was always the fundamental difference between Apple and MS. Microsoft was all about marketing and maybe delivering what they promised. Apple was about building the one true right thing and believing that it will sell because it will be better than anything else. This is why Google will eventually beat both the Apple philosophy and the MS philosophy. Google's mission is not sales or products. Google's mission is in enabling as many people in as many technology contexts as possible.
  • by killhour (3468583) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @11:56AM (#46908223)
    Jobs was well known to be a sociopath. He cared nothing for people or anything that didn't directly further his vision. That's part of what made him such a successful artist and business man, but it's very obvious to anyone that spent any time at all with him that he just didn't care about the law or anything that he saw as standing in his way of getting what he wanted. Just watch any video with him talking about his competitors. He's dismissive, and rude, and obnoxious. And for some reason, people loved him for it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2014 @11:57AM (#46908229)

    Why do people who have achieved nothing in life love to find fault with the innovators that are the engine of modern economic growth.

    So because Hitler was the driving force behind the autobahn, VW, and the foundations of modern space exploration we should just give him a pass on that little Holocaust thing? I mean, he was even partly responsible for bringing the US out of the Great Depression!

    Ugh... its worse than that, because the idea that Jobs was a true innovator is a myth I'm getting disgusted by. Maybe a shrewd and ruthless businessman, who was good at marketing, but not an inventor or innovator.

    Even while people mythologize Jobs, we forget the engineers, innovators and inventors who actually underlie all the growth and progress we've seen. John McCarthy, the inventor of LISP and a giant in computer science, died at almost the same time as Jobs, and arguably had a much greater influence on computing than him. He's a giant in the history of computer science and engineering. But where's the discussion of McCarthy? Where were all the television shows and books? Why aren't we discussing him?

    The first Apple-Samsung trial was about what? Patenting a rectangle? With an outcome determined by a lying, aggressive juror? Where are our priorities?

    I have no problem with honoring those who contribute to the progress of society, but the idolization of Jobs is not that. For me, it represents everything wrong with society. It's not only misplaced, but harmful in that it neglects those who actually move society forward and perpetuates the myth of the lone creator. You can call me a hater if you want, but sometimes it's necessary to point out problems before we can move on.

  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @12:03PM (#46908251)

    So we're defending Steve Jobs with "Well, everyone does it, of course he does to" now? Steve Jobs was a terrible person. He setup a deal with a local car dealership to switch cars on a regular basis for the sole purpose of never having to get a license plate so he could park in handicap spaces without getting a ticket. He could have had his own parking spot damned near anywhere he went, but no, he was such a huge asshole he couldn't just have the spot, he had to take it from someone else that needed it. Jobs fanboys always like to sweep that fact under the rug... now we also have to sweep the plethora of federal laws he broke just to win... and again, it always had to be at someone else's expense. The guy was a grade A jerk, and hope time will eventually reflect that once everyone finally gets their rose colored glasses off.

    Ok, mod me down Apple fanatics. It's worth the karma.

  • by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @12:25PM (#46908357) Homepage Journal

    No. The word you are looking for is sociopath. Jobs did not display violent behavior and he was not unstable. He was, however, un-empathic to those around him and displayed anti-social behavior.

    I'm a Mac user and I really like my Apple products, but I don't mythologize or worship Steve Jobs. He was driven to make cool stuff but as with most people who affect the world in big ways he was doing it strictly for reasons of ego.

    And yes, Larry Ellison is, too.

  • by Mike_EE_U_of_I (1493783) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @12:32PM (#46908399)

    Seriously, where do they get off saying it's rare for big companies to do illegal shit? Name me one that *doesn't* at least walk really close to that line.

    I've consulted in big companies for quite a while. My experience has been that most of time, most people are trying to obey all the laws. That said, yes, "the line" does get crossed. In all the cases I've personally seen, "the line" was crossed either because of ignorance or for precisely the reason you state (the fine is lower than the expected profit).

    And that's why this case is astonishing. Steve Jobs went so far over the line, he might have wound up in jail. That's something I've not seen. You know why no banker went to jail? I've seen this shit in meetings. Someone proposes something that is illegal. The discussion then focuses on costs and profits. It then moves to plausible deniability and the chance of going to jail. If the conclusion is that there is the slightest chance someone will go to jail, that's it. That idea is dead dead dead.

      Steve Jobs, like the Honey Badger, didn't care. He left a trail, IN WRITING, that could have put him in jail.

    Insanely illegal.

  • Apple is a thief (Score:2, Insightful)

    by danheskett (178529) <danheskett@NOSPam.gmail.com> on Saturday May 03, 2014 @01:02PM (#46908565)

    Apple is a thief. If ever a company deserved to be given the corporate death penalty, it's Apple. I present my point of view with three supporting factors:

    1. Preventing employees from sharing in the wealth generated by the company is a monumentally criminal undertaking. Only a very few employees are ever the subject of a bidding war amoung competitors. It's the Holy Grail of being an employee. It creates positive ripple effects throughout the entire economic system. Increased wages and pay also creates incentives to avoid geographic concentration (like in Silicon Valley). Stifling those natural market forces is alone enough to justify having a corporate character cancelled.

    2. Apple has effectively, and evilly, cost-shifted the burdens of it's product production pipeline to anyone who has pockets deep enough to pay (other than themselves). From using outsourced labor in China, subsidized by the ruling Community party and the brazenly inhuman economic system in China,to their offshore subsidiary tax-scheming, to their perpetuation of the corporate copyright cartel, Apple has done everything in it's power, legally and extra-legally, to benefit from the investments of others, to exploit loopholes, and to exploit developing nation's labor supplies.

    3. Apple has, and continues to, extract massive wealth from the economy, and put it to use in non-productive ways. The late Mr. Jobs was a huge driver to this end. By using a combination of mythology, lies, and a deeply held anti-freedom ethos, Apple has done all it can to leverage it's cultural and political power, plus it's product line, to the extraction of middle class wealth. In itself, this is fine, but combined with price fixing, labor exploitation, and fascist integration into government, Apple is a classic economic rent-seeker. Between now and when the product is totally saturated and must compete on price, Apple will have extracted trillions of dollars of economic rent, while providing very little genuine economic benefit. The wealth they have shared outside of the top leadership and shareholders, trickled down to app developers or employees, has not gone towards generating additional economic activity, but instead, to pumping up a lavish, ridiculous, obscene real-estate and consumption bubble isolated into a tiny nexus of the country. The benefits that have accrued, as minimal as they are, are far less positive than would be more productive, honest, and transparent economic activity that they have deprived of oxygen.

    Normally these traits would be just fine, as the marketplace on many levels would correct itself over time. But in Apple's case, it is serious national problem. The combination of illegal dealings, monopoly power, cultural dominance enabled by consolidated media and back-dealing, labor abuses, marketing to under aged youth, and exploitation of celebrity has left Apple isolated and above market pressures for far too long. Combined with rank patent protection abuse and serious ethical breaches of psychopathic top management, Apple must be recognized as a harmful economic actor, and ultimately, like a beloved household pet gone rabid, put down as quickly as is feasible.

  • by davydagger (2566757) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @01:07PM (#46908601)
    thats bullshit. I know the constitution inside and out. The constitution is just that, a piece of paper. All laws are just that, pieces of fucking paper.

    If the system won't enforce the laws, they for all intents and purposes don't exist. Stop arguing over technicalities.

    Look at the former soviet union, which on paper, was a democracy with strong civil rights protections.

    Heck, even on paper North Korea is a democracy with a very popular elected leader.

    Its easy to see it somewhere else, but its sometimes hard to see the forrest from the trees
  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... org minus author> on Saturday May 03, 2014 @01:46PM (#46908779)

    I agree it's uncommon in large companies. I think it's something you only tend to find in companies that are kind of the personal fiefdom of a strongly opinionated person who is much bigger into risk-taking than a professional management would be. For example Rupert Murdoch makes some decisions [wikipedia.org] with his business empire that a professional group of managers would probably not risk, because he has extra-corporate goals (like promoting certain political agendas) and a bit of a belief in his own untouchability.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @02:00PM (#46908837) Journal
    Productivity of the good programmers is very seriously under estimated. A bad algorithm to solve a problem will suck in so much or resources in implementation, debugging and maintenance. When such a code is retired/replaced by fundamentally better algorithm the performance improvement would be orders of magnitude better. Productivity is (output/input). If we define output as the problem solved and the input as the resources consumed during creation, maintenance and execution of the code, you would see the good programmers one order of magnitude better than average one. Great programmers could easily achieve two or even three orders of magnitude improvement on a module that has a service life of 20 years. When a great algorithm is implemented the first time, even people intimately involved with the project might not have a full idea of how much of resource wastage has been averted.

    On the other hand if you define output as so many lines of code and the input as so many hours spent on the keyboard, you would get a totally useless metric. Call it anything you want, but please, please do not call it productivity.

  • by ultranova (717540) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @02:54PM (#46909161)

    If the system won't enforce the laws, they for all intents and purposes don't exist.

    Sure they do. Not when it's the powerful abusing the weak, of course, but try to step on Apple's toes and you'll see just how fast and effective the law can be.

  • Wrong Cancer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by meehawl (73285) <meehawl DOT spam AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday May 03, 2014 @06:50PM (#46910249) Homepage Journal

    Except that when pancreatic cancer manifests itself, it's already too late.

    Except Jobs didn't have a standard "pancreatic cancer", that is, usually an exocrine adenocarcinoma . He had a neuroendocrine insulinoma [wikipedia.org]. That's a quite atypical variant, indolent, localised, and eminently resectable with a much lower probability of mets if caught early when compared with an adenocarcinoma.

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