ONLINE AUCTION HOUSE Ebay has been hit with a civil antitrust lawsuit filed by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) that accused it of suppressing workers' salaries.
The DoJ released a statement alleging that Ebay violated antitrust laws by scheming with Intuit and agreeing not to recruit or hire each others' employees. The DoJ said that this would eliminate competition to "the detriment of affected employees who were likely deprived of access to better job opportunities and salaries".
The California attorney general's office conducted an independent investigation and has filed a similar lawsuit.
"The pact harmed employees and it harmed competition," said California Attorney General Harris in a statement.
"If California is going to continue to be the high-tech capital of the world, we can't allow anticompetitive conduct that prevents talent from going where it's put to its highest use."
The complaint alleged that executives at both parties had a "no poaching" agreement that prevented each from soliciting the others' employees and totally locked Ebay out of any hires for a year.
It claimed that Ebay and Intuit were in cahoots for as long as three years, between 2006 and 2009, and said that this would have held back workers.
"Ebay's agreement with Intuit hurt employees by lowering the salaries and benefits they might have received and deprived them of better job opportunities at the other company," said Joseph Wayland, acting assistant attorney general in charge of the DoJ's Antitrust Division.
"The Antitrust Division has consistently taken the position that these kinds of agreements are per se unlawful under the antitrust laws."
Ebay has defended itself and accused the antitrust investigators of over-reaching.
"Ebay strongly believes that the Department of Justice and California Attorney General are wrong and are using the wrong standard in these matters," said Lara Wyss, an Ebay company spokesperson.
"The DOJ and State Attorney General are taking an overly aggressive interpretation in their enforcement of antitrust law in this area. Ebay will vigorously defend itself."
Intuit, along with Apple, Google, Adobe, Intel, and Pixar settled with the DoJ over similar issues in 2010. The Ebay case grew out of that investigation. µ