Tech Firms Settle with DOJ Over Hiring Charges

Several high-profile technology companies will settle a US Department of Justice (DOJ) case in which they were accused of violating antitrust laws by secretly agreeing not to hire each other's employees. Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit, and Walt Disney Pixar all agreed to settle the case.

"The agreements challenged here restrained competition for affected employees without any procompetitive justification and distorted the competitive process," DOJ antitrust lawyer Molly Boast said in a statement issued by the agency. "The proposed settlement resolves the department's antitrust concerns with regard to these no-solicitation agreements."

The DOJ found that the six high-tech companies had secretly colluded to not poach employees from one another—a common problem in Silicon Valley. But the practice restrains competition for skilled employees and artificially keeps wages low because employees can't seek rival bids for their work.

None of the companies admitted to any wrongdoing, and some continue to question the DOJ's claims while agreeing to the settlement. "There's no evidence that our policy hindered hiring or affected wages," Google Associate General Counsel Amy Lambert wrote in a blog post. "We abandoned our 'no cold calling' policy in late 2009 once the Justice Department raised concerns, and are happy to continue with this approach as part of this settlement."

Intuit was even more defensive. "We have agreed to disagree with the DOJ on the issue of any wrongdoing in this matter," the company wrote in a statement. "The terms of the settlement will not have a significant impact on our business, so we have decided to resolve this matter. We are in agreement with the DOJ in our shared desire to maintain an open, fair, competitive market for talent."

If approved, the settlement will be in effect for five years and will prohibit the companies from engaging in anticompetitive no-solicitation agreements. The companies will also implement compliance measures tailored to these practices, the DOJ says.

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