SAN JOSE, Calif. — Adobe, Apple, Google, and Intel have settled a class action suit alleging they unfairly agreed not to hire one another's engineers, and that they set pay ceilings based on salary data they shared. The suit was slated to go to trial in San Jose in May.
The suit involved as many as 64,000 programmers and engineers and up to $9 billion dollars in damages, according to a March report from InformationWeek. The case was settled for about $300 million, although the parties agreed not to make details public, according to The New York Times.
The case stemmed from a Department of Justice investigation in 2010 that also included Intuit, Lucasfilms, and Pixar. Those three companies struck a settlement for $20 million in September.
The DoJ investigation provided details of the hiring practices, including emails in which several top executives allegedly agreed not to recruit one another's top employees.
In an email dated April 16, 2007, then-Intel CEO Paul Otellini told an Intel recruiter "I have an unofficial no poaching policy" with Google. Eric Schmidt, the search giant's CEO, later told Otellini, "If we find that a recruiter called into Intel, we will terminate the recruiter."
Court documents also cited numerous efforts to share information about and cap salaries of top engineers and programmers. The evidence included anecdotes about Facebook poaching developers from Google and the search giant responding with internal programs to retain top talent.
Engineers who worked for the companies involved from 2005 through 2009 qualified to join the suit but had to file by a March 19 deadline.
In a report in March, the attorney representing employees was skeptical that the suit will end unfair compensation practices in high tech.
"It is hard for me to believe that this was the only time this happened," Joseph R. Saveri, a San Francisco lawyer for the plaintiffs, told us in a March email. "The companies say they have these practices in place but they are justified for other reasons."
The parties filed a brief settlement letter on April 24 to San Jose District Court Judge Lucy H. Koh. It read in part:
Counsel write jointly to inform the Court that plaintiffs and the remaining defendants -- Adobe Systems, Apple, Google, and Intel -- have reached an agreement to settle all individual and class claims. The parties have executed a memorandum of understanding containing the principal terms of the settlement, and anticipate completing documentation of the proposed settlement and presenting it for the Court's consideration by May 27, 2014.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times