Judge Koh Slams Attorney Fees in Apple Anti-poaching Settlement

Judge Lucy Koh approved the US$415 million settlement Apple, Goole, Intel, and Adobe proposed in the anti-poaching lawsuit brought against them by Silicon Valley employees. She gave the deal a thumbs up on Wednesday, but with a twist that no doubt left the attorneys in the case disappointed: they're getting half as much money as they expected.

Judge Koh cut attorney fees in half in Apple's employee anti-poaching settlementJudge Koh cut attorney fees in half in Apple's employee anti-poaching settlement

The attorneys representing the Silicon Valley employees in the lawsuit were planning on taking $81 million for their fees, but Judge Koh called the amount an inappropriate windfall, according to Reuters. Instead, she's letting them take $40 million.

The lawsuit stems from an agreement between several tech companies to not hire away employees from each other. Workers claimed they were stuck in lower paying jobs because they couldn't score raises by moving to other companies.

Judge Koh rejected an earlier $324.5 million settlement offer because she felt it was too low. When the defendants came back with their $415 million counter offer, she seemed pleased and the companies were able to avoid a potentially embarrassing trial.

Had the trial moved forward damning emails from company executives, including then Apple CEO Steve Jobs, would've been presented in court. None of the companies involved wanted those getting out, so they had strong incentive to find a settlement amount that pleased the plaintiffs, the attorneys, and Judge Koh.

Now that final approval for the settlement is in place, it looks like everyone wins—or almost everyone. The employees participating in the lawsuit are going to get some compensation, and the companies get to keep their dirty laundry out of court. The law firm of Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, however, gets to take home $41 million less than they had hoped for.