Adobe, Apple, Google and Intel have jointly agreed to settle a lawsuit which alleged that the companies had colluded to drive salaries down by enforcing a no-poaching agreement that prevented staff from easily moving between the firms.
A class action suit against the companies brought the alleged malpractice to light in 2011, claiming that the companies had agreements which would prevent jobs been offered to each others' staff. This no-poaching agreement, the affected workers claim, prevented a fair and competitive employment environment, and meant that the companies no longer had to keep salaries high to prevent their staff being poached. The suit asked for an impressive $3 billion in damages related to depressed wages, which could potentially have been tripled to $9 billion if the activity was found by the court to breach antitrust laws.
A court will not be given a chance to rule on that matter, however, with the companies agreeing a payout ahead of the hearing at the end of May. Instead of a public court hearing, Reuters
reports that all four companies have agreed to settle for a combined total of $324 million - a fraction of the amount sought by the suit - for the case's 64,000 workers.
Evidence which could have proved the case included emails between the companies which saw a Google recruiter sacked after poaching an employee from Apple - news which Apple co-founder Steve Jobs greeted with a smiley face emoticon, the court documents show. Another email from Google's Eric Schmidt warned the company's human resources director that details of the no-poaching agreement should be shared verbally rather than via email, 'since I don't want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued later.
While the companies have admitted that there were selected no-hire agreements in place, they have denied that they existed to drive down wages. By settling, the companies do not have to admit to any wrongdoing; fellow defendants Disney and Intuit had already settled the same case for $9 million and $11 million respectively.
The case will not be closed until the court rules to accept the settlement offer.