Between 2005 and 2009, several of the largest tech firms in the United States got together and agreed not to poach one another’s workers. The deal wasn’t just to help keep talent, the accusers have argued, it was in an effort to keep wages lower than necessary. Today, four of those firms have agreed to pay $324.5 million in damages stemming from the antitrust case.
The lawsuit represented more than 64,000 employees of several companies involved in the conspiracy, including Adobe, Intel, Apple and Google. Three other firms, including Intuit, Lucasfilm and Pixar already settled in a similar lawsuit. According to The Los Angeles Times, the employees were originally seeking up to $3 billion in damages but, ultimately, each of the employees will only go home with a few thousand dollars. That’s hardly enough to justify the fact that many, if not all, were prevented from earning higher salaries earlier.
Here’s an example of just one exchange of many between Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Eric Schmidt, which shows a bit of what was going on:
Obviously trying to keep talent is a primary goal of any successful company. Money talks, though, and if one company is trying to recruit an employee at a competitor with a fat paycheck, then talent can suddenly become very expensive. It should work that way, but clearly conspiracies can prevent employees from earning what they’re worth, which is exactly what happened here.