Apple, Google Agree to US$415 Million in Antitrust Hiring Deal

Apple Inc. and Google Inc. agreed to a US$415 million settlement over claims they and other Silicon Valley companies conspired to avoid hiring one another's employees, US$90.5 million more than was in an accord that failed to win court approval four
Apple Inc. and Google Inc. agreed to a US$415 million settlement over claims they and other Silicon Valley companies conspired to avoid hiring one another's employees, US$90.5 million more than was in an accord that failed to win court approval four months ago. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (Bloomberg) - Apple Inc. and Google Inc. agreed to a US$415 million settlement over claims they and other Silicon Valley companies conspired to avoid hiring one another's employees, US$90.5 million more than was in an accord that failed to win court approval four months ago.

The agreement, first disclosed Jan. 13 with no details on terms, requires the approval of U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh in San Jose, California, who in August rejected the initial US$324.5 million accord on grounds it didn't offer enough money for affected workers.

Koh said the companies, which include Adobe Systems Inc. and Intel Corp., should pay at least US$380 million given "ample evidence" of antitrust violations that might result in damages of more than US$9 billion if the case went to trial.

One of the objections to the original settlement was filed by former Adobe employee Michael Devine, who left the company in 2008 and was a lead plaintiff in the case. Devine's lawyer, Daniel Girard, argued that if workers hadn't initially agreed to settle for an average payout of about US$3,572, they could have won damages at trial of as much as US$141,331 each.

Girard said he participated in the renewed negotiations that produced this week's agreement and that he'll support efforts to win Koh's approval.

Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman, declined to comment on the new settlement agreement.

Rejections of antitrust settlements are rare, especially when objections are based on the amount and not the law. The rejected settlement would have given the employees' lawyers $81 million in fees plus $1.2 million in costs.

Intuit Inc., Walt Disney Co.'s Pixar animation studio and visual-effects specialist Lucasfilm Ltd. previously settled with the workers.

The case is In re High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, 11-cv-02509, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).