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Technology firms reach a settlement with the US DoJ

Employees free to fly the coop
Mon Sep 27 2010, 12:35

SIX TECHNOLOGY FIRMS have reached an agreement with the US Department of Justice (DoJ) that could draw a line under their collusion to suppress employees' career advancement opportunities.

The firms - Apple, Google, Adobe, Intel, Intuit and Pixar - had been accused of agreeing to refrain from cold calling each others' staff as a way of preventing worker poaching and attrition. The Department of Justice, not surprisingly, saw this as anti-competitive, and had filed a lawsuit against them.

Although the firms had argued that such agreements were necessary in modern business, particularly as technology firms working in collaboration often expose their staff to their peers at other firms. Without having a level payment playing field, they maintained, it would be hard to hold on to their most valued staff after they had been exposed to their competitors.

As of the end of last week though, these firms will be prevented from "entering into no solicitation agreements for employees", according to the DoJ, which said that the activities were indeed anti-competitive.

"The agreements challenged here restrained competition for affected employees without any procompetitive justification and distorted the competitive process," said Molly Boast, deputy assistant attorney general in the DoJ antitrust division in a statement. "The proposed settlement resolves the department's antitrust concerns with regard to these no solicitation agreements."

The resolution will be good news for any employees of the technology firms, who from now on will find their career advancement opportunities greatly improved. And indeed the DoJ said that from now on workers will be able to benefit from the attentions of headhunters, adding that 'cold calling', which had been outlawed by the agreements, might offer them much better career opportunities.

Before this employment opportunities were severely limited, according to the department, which said that salary fixing and poaching agreements were set regardless of geography, meaning that any workers at these firms were unlikely to achieve a move to a competitor, regardless of where in the world they worked.

The proposed settlement will be published within sixty days, the DoJ added. µ



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