The U.S. Department of Justice this afternoon sued six high-profile tech companies for making anticompetitive moves to protect employees from poaching.
Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, Pixar and Intuit made agreements “that restrained competition between them for highly skilled employees,” the department said in a news release.
They agreed not to cold-call each other’s employees, which “distorted the competitive process,” Molly Boast, deputy attorney general in the antitrust division said.
Starting as early as 2005, the companies agreed to create “do not call lists” of each other’s employees and lists of companies that were “off limits” for recruiting.
An example listed in the release:
Beginning no later than September 2007, Google and Intel executives agreed not to cold call each other’s employees. In its hiring policies and protocol manual, Google listed Intel among the companies that have special agreements with Google and are part of the “Do Not Cold Call” list. Similarly, Intel instructed its human resources staff about the existence of the agreement.
The companies were named in a civil antitrust complaint filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Simultaneously, a proposed five-year settlement was filed that would end the suit.
From the release:
Although the complaint alleges only that the companies agreed to ban cold calling, the proposed settlement more broadly prohibits the companies from entering, maintaining or enforcing any agreement that in any way prevents any person from soliciting, cold calling, recruiting, or otherwise competing for employees. The companies will also implement compliance measures tailored to these practices.
The suit came out of a larger, ongoing investigation into high-tech firms’ employment practices.
Google acknowledged the settlement with a blog post, in which Amy Lambert, associate general counsel, still defended the company’s behavior. An excerpt:
In order to maintain a good working relationship with these companies, in 2005 we decided not to “cold call” employees at a few of our partner companies. Our policy only impacted cold calling, and we continued to recruit from these companies through LinkedIn, job fairs, employee referrals, or when candidates approached Google directly. In fact, we hired hundreds of employees from the companies involved during this time period.