Tech Giants Settle Class-Action Lawsuit

Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe Systems have settled a lawsuit rather than go to trial on allegations they conspired to stop high-tech workers from leaving one company for another to get a better job.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Four tech giants, including Apple and Google, settled a class action lawsuit on Thursday - 64,000 workers claimed the companies conspired to hold down salaries. The plaintiffs will reportedly receive over $300 million, far short of what they were seeking.

NPR's Ina Jaffe reports.

INA JAFFE, BYLINE: The plaintiffs were software engineers, animators, programmers and other technology workers employed by Google, Apple, Intel and Adobe Systems. They alleged that the companies agreed not to hire each others most valuable employees, and emails between company executives seem to support that.

For example, there's one email exchange where former Google CEO Eric Schmidt assures Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, that a Google employee who tried to recruit an Apple worker would be fired. In another email, Schmidt tells Google's Human Resources director to make the no-poaching policy known to other companies verbally, rather than in writing, quote, "since I don't want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued later."

This lawsuit grew out of a Justice Department investigation. It was settled when seven tech companies agreed to drop their no-poaching policies. The workers then sued, seeking compensation. They've already settled with three companies: Disney's Pixar, Lucasfilm and Intuit agreed to pay $20 million.

The plaintiffs were seeking $3 billion in damages from the four remaining companies. Anti-trust provisions could have tripled that to $9 billion, if the suit was successful.

In a prepared statement, Adobe said that it believes it engaged in no wrongdoing, but was settling, quote, "to avoid the uncertainties, cost and distraction of litigation."

An attorney for the plaintiffs called it an excellent resolution.

Ina Jaffe, NPR News.

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