Apple, Google and a number of other hi-tech companies are being taken to court by five software engineers in the US who allege the companies violated anti-trust laws by conspiring not to poach each others' employees.
The case follows on from an investigation by the US Justice Department last year which revealed at least six companies kept 'do not call' lists to avoid recruiting certain people. The companies — Apple, Google, Adobe, Intel, Intuit, Lucasfilm and Pixar — settled the anti-trust complaint, but now the employees involved are seeking damages, it emerged last week.
Documents made public in court filings reveal that in 2007 former Apple CEO Steve Jobs directly asked former Google chief executive Eric Schmidt to stop trying to recruit an Apple engineer.
The court papers reveal that Jobs wrote to Schmidt: ‘I would be very pleased if your recruiting department would stop doing this.’
Schmidt forwarded Job's email onto an employee asking, ‘Can you get this stopped and let me know why this is happening?’
A Google staffing director replied that the employee who contacted the Apple engineer ‘will be terminated within the hour.’
He added: ‘Please extend my apologies as appropriate to Steve Jobs.’
Other notes passed between Jobs and Intel’s CEO Paul Otellini and between Jobs and Palm’s chief executive reveal discussions on anti-poaching agreements.
Otellini wrote: ‘Let me clarify. We have nothing signed. We have a handshake 'no recruit' between Eric and myself. I would not like this broadly known.’
Lawyers acting for the companies argued last week that the companies were involved in bilateral anti-poaching deals to protect collaboration, denying they were involved in a conspiracy.
However US. District Judge Lucy Koh has ruled that the civil lawsuit will proceed. The case is to be heard at the US District Court in the Northern District of California.
All of the companies say they will fight the case.
Intel said the company ‘disagrees with the allegations contained in the private litigation related to recruiting practices and plans to conduct a vigorous defense.’
Google said on Friday that it ‘has always actively and aggressively recruited top talent.’
Apple was unavailable for comment.