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US court rejects Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe wage-fixing settlement

Failed to persuade Judge Koh, who said plaintiffs deserve more than $324.5m
Mon Aug 11 2014, 15:57

Judge Lucy KohBIG TECH INDUSTRY PLAYERS Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe have failed to persuade a US court to agree to a $324.5m (about £193m) settlement to resolve a lawsuit by employees, who accused the firms of conspiring to avoid competing for each other's workers.

US District Court Judge Lucy Koh said in a ruling on Friday in San Jose, California, that the class action settlement amount should be larger, as the plaintiffs have a very strong case against the information technology firms.

"[There is] substantial and compelling evidence that [late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs] was a, if not the, central figure in the alleged conspiracy," Koh noted in her ruling.

Judge Koh referred to evidence that involved Jobs and other Silicon Valley executives and linked the companies together and that the defendants played a major role in organising the alleged scheme to work together to avoid competing for each other's employees.

The lengthy court order said, "The Court cannot conclude that the instant settlement falls within the range of reasonableness.

"As this Court stated in its summary judgment order, there is ample evidence of an overarching conspiracy between the seven defendants, including the similarities in the various agreements, the small number of intertwining high-level executives who entered into and enforced the agreements, defendants' knowledge about the other agreements, the sharing and benchmarking of confidential compensation information among defendants and even between firms that did not have bilateral anti-solicitation agreements, along with defendants' expansion and attempted expansion of the anti-solicitation agreements."

Representatives of Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe weren't immediately available for comment.

The case arose in 2011, based largely on emails in which Apple CEO Steve Jobs, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and some of their rivals hatched plans to avoid hiring each other's prized engineers.

Technology employees said that the conspiracy limited their job mobility and, as a result, fixed wages.

The companies had hoped to get the case dismissed in 2012, but were refused on grounds of plausible interference. µ


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