Thursday, May 13, 2021

Incriminating Emails Surface in Poaching Lawsuit

Five former employees have sued Apple, Google and Intel, claiming that the companies had an illegal deal to avoid recruiting, a.k.a. “poaching,” each others’ workers. Now, the court has released numerous email messages and other documents related to the case–and they seem to incriminate Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Eric Schmidt.

The Verge’s Jeff Blagdon posted many of the documents and reported, “Steve Jobs threatened patent litigation if Palm wouldn’t agree to stop hiring Apple employees, says former Palm CEO Edward Colligan in a statement dated August 7th, 2012. The allegation is backed up by a trove of recently-released evidence that shows just how deeply Silicon Valley’s no-hire agreements pervaded in the mid-2000s. Apple, Google, Intel, and others are the focus of a civil lawsuit into the ‘gentleman’s agreements,’ in which affected employees are fighting for class action status and damages from resulting lost wages, potentially reaching into the hundreds of millions of dollars.”

CNET quoted sworn testimony from former Palm CEO Edward Colligan, who said, “In 2007, I received a call from Steve Jobs, the Chief Executive Officer of Apple. In the months before the call, several employees had moved between the two companies. On the call, Mr. Jobs expressed concern about employees being hired away from Apple by Palm. As a solution, Mr. Jobs proposed an arrangement between Palm and Apple by which neither company would hire the other’s employees, including high tech employees. Mr. Jobs also suggested that if Palm did not agree to such an arrangement, Palm could face lawsuits alleging infringements of Apple’s many patents.” Colligan said he responded that this sort of deal was “not only wrong” but “likely illegal.”

Fast Company’s Addy Dugdale noted, “Jobs also emailed Eric Schmidt and asked that Google stop recruiting iPod workers for its new phone software project, later Android. If any reply could be described as non-hindsight hindsight, it is this. ‘I would prefer that Omid [Ed note: Omid is presumably someone in Google HR] do it verbally since I don’t want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued later?’ he wrote.”

ReadWrite’s Dan Lyons commented, “Keep in mind that the real victims of what Jobs was proposing are front-line engineers whose incomes would be constrained because their bosses had struck a deal not to poach from one another. This was rich guys making deals to screw their engineers and boost their own profits.”

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