Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe Settle Anti-Poaching Class Action

Apple in CourtFour Silicon Valley tech giants Thursday settled a class action lawsuit accusing the companies of entering anti-poaching agreements with one another. The settlement was revealed in court documents, according to Reuters, though terms of the deal won't be announced until May 27th.

The class action was filed on behalf of tech engineers and other workers in Silicon Valley who accused the companies of agreeing not to hire each others' employees and conspiring to hold down wages. The suit came in the aftermath of the same companies settling with the Department of Justice over the same charges.

As part of that settlement, the companies agreed to no longer enter into such agreements, but the class action was brought by individuals affected by the agreements. The trial was set to begin at the end of May, and plaintiffs were planning to ask a jury for US$3 billion in damages. Any damages awarded could have been tripled under antitrust laws, too.

It's not much of a surprise that the companies settled, in part because of email trails between top executives at Google, Apple, and other firms that were damning.

One of the most interesting was an email exchange between the late Steve Jobs—then Apple's CEO—and then-CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt. In that exchange, Mr. Schmidt allegedly promised to fire a recruiter who had tried to recruit an Apple engineer. Mr. Jobs then allegedly forwarded the email to Apple's human resources department complete with a smiley face he added as commentary.

Another exchange involved a discussion between Eric Schmidt and and his own HR department about sharing the no-call agreement Google had with Apple with other companies. Mr. Schmidt allegedly said he would pre to discuss that "verbally, since I don't want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued later?"

Dude. Do no evil.

In any event, some terms of the deal will be announced by plaintiffs and the four companies on May 27th. The class involves some 64,000 Silicon Valley workers.