U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh has approved a $415 million settlement offer by Apple, Google, Adobe and Intel in a Silicon Valley class-action lawsuit alleging that 64,000 tech workers were defrauded by the tech giants conspiring in secret “no-poaching” agreements to suppress tech workers’ wages in “The Valley.”
As Breitbart News reported in a January article entitled, “Apple & Friends Hammered for Employment Fraud,” the federal judge took the extraordinary step to rejecting a $324 million settlement agreement by the companies as “inadequate” after the Court “admitted” into evidence the plaintiff’s expert testimony that the direct wage losses by workers were the result of the companies’ actions.
The evidence gathered during the discovery phase of the class-action lawsuit exposed Apple and Google emails that cast their top executives as sleazy and corrupt.
Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs was depicted as the conniving ringleader of a scheme designed to minimize the chances that the top computer programmers and other talented employees would defect to other technology companies. The lawsuit contended the secret “no-poaching” agreements orchestrated by Jobs suppressed the employees’ wages, though many of whom were already making more than $100,000 annually.
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who was on Apple’s Board at the time that the alleged collusion began, sometimes took drastic actions to make sure his company didn’t cross Jobs. In 2007, Schmidt, in a bid to keep Jobs happy, fired a Google recruiter for contacting an Apple engineer, according to internal emails.
The suit against Apple and Google followed the capitulation of the defendants in the “High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation” filed in 2006 that has served as the roadmap for numerous other lawsuits regarding allegedly “injured tech workers.”
Lucas Films, Pixar, and Intuit were alleged to have defrauded 147 tech workers as an “impacted class” in an “overarching conspiracy.” Because the court ruled the entertainment companies’ fraud was built on a series of six written agreements not to solicit each other’s employees, the case seemed to qualify for treble damages. The settlement last year provided that each “injured” employee receive $136,054, and their lawyers’ fees be paid by the defendants.
As reported by Breitbart News on August 11 last year, the evidentiary rulings in the case meant the class-action lawsuits would mushroom into a “broad conspiracy that could ensnare hundreds of large and small tech companies across America in a blatant fraud led by Apple to cheat tech workers out of many billions in wages.”
Apple, Google, Adobe and Intel claim their alleged collusion was stopped after the U.S. Justice Department opened an investigation that culminated with an antitrust complaint being filed against Apple, Intel, Google and Adobe in 2010. That Justice Department case was settled without the companies admitting any guilt or paying any fines.
The 64,000-member plaintiff class each sought $15,000 in actual monetary loss and $30,000 in anti-trust punitive damages for suppressing wages under the Sherman Antitrust Act and Clayton Antitrust Act. Apple, Google, Adobe and Intel initially tried to settle for about $5,200 apiece. The new settlement per employee, before taxe, is about $6,500, based on individual salaries of the workers between 2005 and 2009.
Because as many as 200,000 tech workers are alleged to have been defrauded by “no poaching” agreements, there are a number of similar tech worker lawsuits moving toward trial.
If discovery in any of those other lawsuits reveals that Apple, Intel, Google or Adobe were trying to suppress wages after 2010, Judge Koh will haul the these industry leaders back into court and hammer them even harder.