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Judge Denies Dismissal of No-Poach Conspiracy Case 224

theodp writes "Testifying before Congress in 2007, Google's HR chief stated: 'We make great efforts to uncover the most talented employees we can find.' But according to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Google actually went to some lengths to avoid uncovering some of tech's most talented employees, striking up agreements with Apple, Intel, and other corporations to avoid recruiting each other's employees. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh ruled that Google, Apple, Intel, Adobe, Disney, Pixar, Intuit and Lucasfilm must face a lawsuit claiming they violated antitrust laws by entering into no-poaching agreements with each other. 'I don't want to see any obstruction on discovery,' Koh told lawyers during a hearing. According to the head attorney representing the plaintiffs, the total damages could exceed $150 million if just 10,000 entry-level engineers were affected."
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Judge Denies Dismissal of No-Poach Conspiracy Case

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  • Re:Antitrust? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Splab ( 574204 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @10:40AM (#38839129)

    It's not about the consumers, it's about turning employees into slaves.

  • Re:Antitrust? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hippo ( 107522 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @10:42AM (#38839149) Homepage

    Because all of the employees that get a lower salary due to the agreement are also consumers. It also indicates that the companies are not interested in competing with each other to produce the best products by recruiting the best talent.

  • by JustAnotherIdiot ( 1980292 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @10:44AM (#38839177)
    It's great that they're getting hit for this, but who exactly is going to get that money?
    Somehow, I doubt those effected will see a dime, and lawyers and government stooges are going to get it.
    Justice for all my damn foot, why don't more people attack that part of the pledge?
  • Re:Common sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @10:49AM (#38839229) Homepage

    If companies do not compete for employees then they are stifling salaries and playing people less simply because they have a monopoly set up.

  • by jimbo3123 ( 320148 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @10:50AM (#38839233) Homepage

    Even if current employees don't see a dime of the damages, the ruling should affect all current and future employees who should now be better assured that they will get a competitive salary. If employers fail to compensate their employees fairly, there is now the ability to switch employers freely, like the law requires.

  • Re:Common sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by noh8rz2 ( 2538714 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @10:54AM (#38839277)
    this isn't about monopoly power; it's about workplace discrimination. If I apply for a job, it's illegal for the employer to deny me the job capriciously, including the fact that they have a side agreement with their competitors not to hire me.
  • Unions (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Azuaron ( 1480137 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @10:54AM (#38839279)
    How is this any different from a union? And if it's okay for unions to do it, why isn't it okay for companies?
  • Do No Evil (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @11:01AM (#38839363) Journal

    Yup. People sucked down this motto and believed it. The fast is that the nature of business is often contrary to the general public interest. This is why we citizens band together in the form of governments to counterbalance some of the negative side of business. No, this isn't a diatribe against capitalism. It is simple a recognition that capitalism has its weaknesses that must be addressed and reckoned with.

    Put two saints in charge of a business and you will find that they begin behaving in ways that the wouldn't if they weren't in a powerful position. it doesn't make them evil. It is simply a response to the environment and the forces around them. Our gov't should place restraints in place to minimize anti-society behavior.

    When Google puts in the "no poaching" agreement, it is acting in its own best interest, but not in the best interest of society as a whole. Citizens should be free to work in the best environment for them. This isn't a profit driven value. It is a freedom based value. Google is acting against that and should be slapped in the language that corporations understand -- the bottom line. The slap must be hard enough to change behavior, or else it will be deemed a cost of doing business.

    And if you still think that we just need the right people in charge of companies, people with the right ethics and then everything will be perfect, you are absolutely deluded. Granted, we DO need strong ethics in those who hold power. But be damned sure that even those people will act against the interest of the rest of us.

  • Re:Antitrust? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DriedClexler ( 814907 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @11:06AM (#38839427)

    I guess you could say it isn't, but the threat of workers being poached (in *some* sense) is what keeps wages from falling to zero in the first place, protecting the worker.

    It happens in a different form for lower-wage workers, like in fast food or janitorial services: employers have to pay enough of a wage that the workers won't flee and go to someone else who offers more.

    In high-wage tech jobs, it more often takes the form of some company actively seeking out the worker and making a competitive offer.

    Either way, "competition" for workers is what keeps wages reflecting relative scarcity of that kind of labor (with a ton of caveats I won't go into, obviously. And whether or not you agree with the idea, antitrust is intended to prevent anti-competitive behavior, whether regarding consumers or workers.

  • Re:Antitrust? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chrb ( 1083577 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @11:11AM (#38839497)

    It is short sighted to assume that this is just about well paid programmers. Employment law applies to all corporations. If it were legal for high value employers like Google etc. to conspire to drive down wages, then it would also be legal for low value employers to conspire and do likewise. It could easily be the case that, in certain geographic regions or areas of industry, there would only be a few potential employers for certain classes of worker, and collusion between these employers could drive wages down to minimum wage, or even down to an unliveable wage for places that don't have a minimum.

    The market for employees is just like any other functioning market. Companies colluding to reduce competition in the marke makes the market less efficient. If you are an economist, or just a person who favors capitalism and competitive markets, then you should be against this.

  • Re:Antitrust? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 27, 2012 @11:39AM (#38839819)

    Doesn't the same argument apply to unions? Sellers in this employee market are colluding to raise prices...

  • Re:Antitrust? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:03PM (#38840105)

    All of a sudden a company had a great line of business and the next day itâ(TM)s across the street.

    Hey, you can't always be on the winning side of at-will firing.

  • Re:Unions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:03PM (#38840109)

    How is this any different from a union? And if it's okay for unions to do it, why isn't it okay for companies?

    Same reply as the last time this nonsense was posted. If it is Ok for a three year old kid to hit and kick an adult man as hard as possible, shouldn't it be Ok for an adult man to hit and kick a three year old kid as hard as possible?

  • Re:Antitrust? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AngryDeuce ( 2205124 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:05PM (#38840139)

    Exactly. What happens when Walmart, Target, ShopKo, Best Buy, and every other big box retailer do the same thing? What happens when every major employer in a given field starts doing this?

    This kind of crap has too much of a feudalistic flavor for me to stomach...

  • Re:Antitrust? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 517714 ( 762276 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @12:20PM (#38840347)

    You just don't get it. If they hired from each other, the employees who changed jobs get 20% or greater pay increases with each jump. Because they are paid more their "peers" demand more and they get 10% or more pay increases. Eventually college students, seeing how the pay scale is rising, go into the field, causing an adequate employee supply and reducing the upward pressure on pay. The pay scale for these employees would be significantly higher than it is today. By avoiding this cycle, the companies reduce their payroll costs significantly and they are doing so through collusion.

    This is why the Government should stop trying to promote STEP because they keep trying to keep the cost of engineers down by granting visas to foreign workers and Mr. Obama announced in the State of the Union Address that he wants to keep foreign born US educated engineers here, which will only decrease the pay scale for all engineers. If we need more engineers then we need to let the market make it more attractive to become one, not dangle citizenship to fill the gap.

  • Re:Antitrust? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by turkeyfish ( 950384 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @01:09PM (#38841113)

    Shouldn't the best players in the league be paid more? Even sports teams have what are called free agents. If companies want to retain employees they need to get them to sign a contract that stipulates not only the amount of their pay, but also the duration. From a business perspective this would create more stability than trying to engage in non-poaching deals.

  • Re:Antitrust? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by s73v3r ( 963317 ) <s73v3rNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday January 27, 2012 @01:47PM (#38841811)

    No, no. It's ok to do that to the lower classes, because this keeps costs down, which lets the upper classes get more. This increase in wealth will eventually trickle down to the lower classes in the form of more shitty, underpaid jobs. Because, you know, companies just hire people out of the goodness of their hearts when they have more money. It has nothing to do with the level of demand at all.

  • Re:Antitrust? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Friday January 27, 2012 @01:59PM (#38842005)

    I see your point, but you sort of speak against yourself by bringing up the CEO pay example. After all, isn't the complaints about CEO pay by everyone just a plea for someone to collude to keep people with certain rare skills (Executive Management) from making as much as the market will bear? You may not think much of CEOs, but it's the same thing. The only difference is that you either simply don't like CEOs or you devalue their skill set, and while there are definitely some sociopaths out there in the CEO position, I'd argue that it is a position you need some very stong skills to do successfully.

    In any event, people with rare skills are not the general worker population that unions and such would be working for. Unions tend to cut down people who try to use their skills to rise above the norm in terms of pay and benefits, instead, they usually insist on a seniority basis for any sort of increased compensation.

    I'm not saying that I like that CEOs make as much as they do, but I often wonder if it even matters how much they make. Do lottery winners suddenly become threats to society with that money, simply because they have a lot of it? Honestly, this country isn't going to fall apart because some people make more money than others, it's going to fall apart due to our attitudes about what is good to do with that money, and that's something that reaches right down into the "lower" classes as well. We seem to care more about how much someone else makes and pay no attention to what we do with what we do make. After all, isn't that what the mortgage crisis was all about? People taking out loans they simply couldn't afford, just because some loan officer told them it was okay for them to spend as much money as they could?

    There's always going to be someone like a CEO out there. If you abolish them, then the rich people will be the political leaders or the union leaders. If you abolish money or private ownership, then the rich people will be the Leaders of the Revolution. Pointing at these people is like pointing at the sun for being too hot and wondering why someone doesn't just take that big ball of gas down a notch.

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"