According to a report by Reuters, Apple CEO Tim Cook was ordered by Judge Lucy Koh to give a deposition in an ongoing antitrust case, which alleges numerous Silicon Valley companies colluded to not poach each other’s employees:
At a hearing in San Jose, California federal court on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh also ordered Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook to be questioned by plaintiff attorneys for four hours.
Koh must decide whether the lawsuit can proceed as a class action, which would give the plaintiffs more leverage to extract a large settlement. Koh said that at the time the no-poaching agreements were forged, top executives felt a collective approach toward hiring was more efficient than dealing with employees individually.
Cook was unable to be spared from questioning, even though Apple attorney George Riley pleaded the former had no involvement in the anti-poaching practices prior to taking over as CEO. Judge Koh dismissed the argument and said “I find it hard to believe a COO would have no say over salary and compensation for all employees.”
The civil lawsuit filed by five former Silicon Valley tech employees against Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, Intuit, Pixar and Lucasfilm, alleges similar claims the U.S. Department of Justice raised back in a 2010 probe, where the companies involved settled out of court — but this time Judge Koh ensured that wasn’t going to happen. This private lawsuit argues companies involved conspired to prevent poaching of employees, thus preventing employee mobility and other financial opportunities.
Evidence of collusion over anti-poaching of employees can be traced back to 2007, when Apple CEO Steve Jobs emailed Google’s Eric Schmidt (an Apple board member at the time) to stop their company from their attempts to hire an Apple engineer, reported Reuters:
“I would be very pleased if your recruiting department would stop doing this,” Jobs wrote Schmidt, an Apple director at the time.
Schmidt forwarded that email to various people, asking if they could “get this stopped.”
Eventually, Google’s staffing director said the employee who recruited the engineer would be fired, and added: “Please extend my apologies as appropriate to Steve Jobs.”
Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt is set to be possibly questioned by plaintiffs’ lawyers on February 20, along with other executives including Intel chief executive Paul Otellini.