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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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  • Re:Simple (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Travis Mansbridge (830557) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @10:54AM (#46907893)
    Jobs was the only tech industry giant with the gall to assume that he deserved a cut of every piece of software sold over his company's platforms, and this is why they made multiple pushes to take over and lock down the entire software industry. I'm not saying Windows or Android are better, but at least those users can run whatever software they want. Jobs was always a megalomaniac.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2014 @11:17AM (#46908001)

    I worked as a contractor at Apple for some years in the early 1980s. I was offered a permanent position there which I turned down. In those days Apple was small and I interacted with Jobs on a semi-regular basis.

    Inside Apple, Jobs was a capricious tyrant who inspired fear or loyalty depending on whether he liked you or not. The stories about him are legion. He liked people to challenge him, to a point, but if you went over that point he would never listen to you again. He felt that he understood what users wanted much better than the user experience people (maybe correctly). He was the ultimate micro-manager. He gave a few secretaries a $50k spending limit when their boss might have a $5k limit (or less in one case). He ignored convention - but only when that helped him. He hated colored screen output - Woz had to sneak in the 6 colors the Apple II had. In the early days he swindled Woz out of profits from a joint venture. He considered most people as objects to be used to achieve his objectives. He considered laws as something to be worked around. I'm reasonably convinced he had very little or no conscience.

    But he knew what he wanted from people. Customer experience was everything. He could charm people when he felt he needed to. He was loyal to people in his inner circle (mostly). He would not compromise if he felt this would result in an inferior product. He had very high expectations of people's work output (and he let them know in no uncertain terms when they didn't meet those expectations).

    He had his good side and his bad side. He was not a suitable person to run a company. Firing him was the best thing that could have happened because it changed him fundamentally. He actually started to be concerned about what others thought, and realized that and sometimes you have to listen to them, and on occasion someone else could be right. But be in no doubt, at the bottom of his heart he still considered other people as stepping stones to help him go where he wanted to go - to provide money as investors or customers, to create products for him to sell, or to help him sell those products.

  • Re:Simple (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @12:11PM (#46908295) Homepage Journal

    "Jesus, it's 30%? I thought it was 10%. Sickening."

    For crying out loud, it was only a few years ago that the app store and its deal for developers was started and already everyone has forgotten what happened. Developers flocked to creating apps for the app store because they were only charging 30%. Devs were used to making no more than around 50% for their efforts.

    For someone else to host your app and process all of the transactions and make it searchable, etc. you have to expect to pay something.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2014 @01:00PM (#46908547)

    >hat the best programmers/software engineers are astoundingly more productive; something like 10 to 25 times faster then average ones

    I think this is a community myth - proficiency exams don't show people who are 25 times faster at writing CS exams. How could they? Code isn't about speed, it's about depth of thought and planning.

    So is there any actual proof for this besides anecdotal perceptions? I've seen coders who work all day and night and thus produce more, but on an hourly basis the amount and quality of code is probably 25-50% more productivity because they are constantly heads down in the code. These are the "superstars" generally, but do they produce 25x more? Absolutely not. Not in your wildest dreams.

  • by danheskett (178529) <{danheskett} {at} {gmail.com}> on Saturday May 03, 2014 @01:08PM (#46908611)

    There are many, many, many accounts of Steve Job's having frequent, spastic, and yes violent outbursts. We tend to excuse it because he was passionate, am I right?

    Secondly, there is substantial evidence that Jobs was unstable. His emotional rollercoastering, OCD, and again passion are often just passed off as you know, just how it is. He essentially committed suicide by failing to believe he was mortal, and did not turn to medicine to heal his sick body until it was too late to be saved. There are numerous accounts of his epic, days long LSD trips, benders, and other substance abuse.

    I am not saying the case is 100% solid, but there is more than enough probable cause to suggest Jobs was a psychopath.

  • Re:Simple (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blincoln (592401) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @01:45PM (#46908771) Homepage Journal

    Actually, 10% above cost is the maximum that Costco will price merchandise without having something like VP-level approval. They seem to be doing well enough.

  • by mauriceh (3721) <maurice@NOSpAm.harddata.com> on Saturday May 03, 2014 @02:41PM (#46909085) Homepage

    Why does everyone respond to these situations with such simplistic bullshit "answers"
    Yes, you are right, given a "solution" of ONLY penalizing executives, scapegoats shall be appointed.
    Also, a "solution" of only fines means some small amount will be paid while the perpetrators walk away scot-free.
    The obvious solution is for BOTH to be enforced, along with a real company value devaluing penalty.
    Stock forfeiture in public companies to start with..
    Suspension of trading for a significant interval for another additional penalty.

    If an individual is convicted of committing a crime they risk both forfeiture of assets, AND jail time.
    Why is a company or corporation immune to these measures?

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