Former Palm CEO: Apple Wanted No Hire Agreement


Former Palm CEO Ed Colligan claims that at one time Apple CEO Steve Jobs suggested they agree to not hire away each other's employees, but that he shot the idea down, calling it "likely illegal," according to Bloomberg.

Apparently the two CEOs carried out their discussion in August 2007, just weeks after the original iPhone was released. Jon Rubenstein, who was active in the development of the iPod, had just joined Palm, too.

Apple had already hired away several Palm employees to help with the iPhone, and it looked like Palm was getting ready to start recruiting Apple employees with the help of Mr. Rubenstein. Seeing that the two companies would likely start raiding each other's talent pool, Mr. Jobs told Mr. Colligan "We must do whatever we can to stop this."

"Your proposal that we agree that neither company will hire the other's employees, regardless of the individual's desires, is not only wrong, it is likely illegal," Mr. Colligan replied.

If the communication went as Mr. Colligan suggested, there's a chance the Department of Justice might be interested in what transpired. Looking for a job with a competitor is "a form of competition that is usually protected by antitrust laws that prohibit agreements that restrict competition," according to antitrust lawyer and former DOJ employee Donald Russell.

If so, Apple could find federal investigators on its doorstep yet again. The government is currently looking into why Apple blocked Google's Google Voice application from the iPhone and iPod touch App store, as well as whether or not Apple and Google violated antitrust laws by sharing board members.

Apple has not commented on Mr. Colligan's statements.