Tech Companies Lawsuit Alleging Suppressed Wages Settled for $325M

Friday, 25 Apr 2014 01:14 PM

By Nick Sanchez

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Four of the biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley have settled a class action lawsuit brought by 64,000 of their employees who accused them of conspiring to suppress wages.

Google, Apple, Intel, and Adobe agreed to pay roughly $325 million to settle the high-profile anti-trust lawsuit that threatened to expose a bevy of emails exchanged between the companies' top brass, The Wall Street Journal reports. The four were the final to settle in the suit, which originally had also targeted Walt Disney Co.'s Pixar and Lucasfilm as well as Intuit. Those companies previously settled for $9 million and $11 million, respectively.

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The news appeared to underwhelm Wall Street, which so far has not seen any major or even moderate activity around those stocks.

The settlement amount was a fraction of the suit's potential.

"They planned to ask for $3 billion in damages at trial, according to court filings. That could have tripled to $9 billion under antitrust law," Reuters wrote.

"The companies, which are some of the world’s richest, must think that is a bargain," said The New York Times.

Nonetheless, the plaintiffs and their lawyers expressed satisfaction with the suit. "I am pleased with the result, and it will serve the class well," said former Intel engineer Mark Fichtner, one of four plaintiffs named in the suit.

During pre-trial hearings, the companies admitted to entering into some no-hire agreements but said they were in no way conspiring to drive down wages.

It was also revealed that the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs had email exchanges with former Google CEO Eric Schmidt regarding the "poaching" of employees that could potentially have embarrassed the companies. The defending lawyers filed motions at one point requesting that some evidence be excluded because it made Jobs look like a "bully."

In one exchange, Schmidt emailed Jobs to let him know that a Google recruiter who solicited an engineer at Apple would be fired for the offense. Schmidt was also revealed to have emailed a human resources director at Google asking that they meet in person "since I don't want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued later."

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