The Department of Justice has launched a probe into the hiring practices of Apple, Google, Genentech, Yahoo! and other high tech powerhouses. The DoJ is concerned that the firms are negotiating agreements on the recruiting and hiring one another's employees, and that such arrangements stifle competition.
Citing two unnamed sources, the Washington Post reported that the investigation is in the preliminary stage, and that it is "industry-wide."
Tech companies have a long history of preying on one another when it comes to hiring. Companies not only want the top talent working for them, oftentimes they may also merely want to deprive the competition of that top talent.
For instance, Microsoft embarked on a multi-year campaign in the early 1990s to hire Borland's top executives away from the firm, which made the then-top development platform for Windows. Microsoft was keen on improving its own development tools, which is a lucrative field
At that time, Microsoft hired several executives and engineers away from Borland, offering them salaries far above industry-normal rates. In one instance, the company hired a key vice president by offering a massive signing bonus and a year off before he had to show up in Redmond to begin his first shift.
Borland eventually changed its name to Inprise, then back to Borland, and dropped out of the development business in 2006.
Similar wars have taken place between other companies, and the tech world has viewed them as destructive and expensive. On the other hand, such battles have been good for employees and executives who saw their salaries rising as a by-product of these battles.
By having corporate gentlemen's agreements regulating these practices, tech companies could well see less churn and keep salary negotiations more easily managed. With a new DoJ more concerned with regulating business and the market place, however, increased scrutiny over these and other practices, even in the tech world, is likely to increase.