Tech companies have long been known to have agreements in place preventing them from recruiting each others’ workers. But that now-standard practice may be a violation of antitrust laws, according to a private lawsuit brought on behalf of some former employees of a handful of US technology firms.
Judge Lucy Koh, who became somewhat of a household name after presiding over the historic Apple-Samsung patent infringement case last year, has ordered Apple CEO Tim Cook to give a deposition in the case, which also lists Google, Intel, Adobe and a host of other top-tier technology companies as defendants. The firms in question are accused of having entered agreements that prevent them from attempting to hire rivals’ employees, which ultimately hurts the employees themselves.
The suit is similar to a case the companies settled with the US Justice Department in 2010 after an investigation of similar claims. The Justice Department said in its settlement that the companies kept do-not-call lists to avoid poaching competitors’ staff, a practice that was said to have limited competition.
In a California courtroom yesterday, Koh said she found it “hard to believe” that Cook wasn’t aware of the agreements. Meanwhile, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt will be deposed on 20 February, and Intel chief executive Paul Otellini will get the deposition treatment later this month.