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Apple

General


Four major Silicon Valley companies have formally agreed to pay $324.5 million to settle claims brought by employees accusing them of colluding not to poach each other’s talent.

The settlement, between Apple Inc, Google Inc, Intel Corp, Adobe Systems Inc and roughly 64,000 workers, was disclosed in papers filed late Thursday with the federal court in San Jose, California.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh has been asked to preliminarily approve the accord at a June 19 hearing, over an objection by one of the four named plaintiffs. That plaintiff, Michael Devine, said the settlement let the companies off too easily.

The payout was originally reported by Reuters but not officially confirmed. Lawyers for the plaintiffs may seek up to 25 percent of the settlement amount in legal fees.

Filed in 2011, the lawsuit accused Silicon Valley companies of conspiring to keep wages down and limit competition.

The case has been closely watched because of the potential $9 billion of damages sought, and its insight into how Silicon Valley operates.

Among the revelations were pointed emails from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs that at times admonished then-Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt to stop raiding his company.

Thursday’s settlement gives workers only a few thousand dollars each on average.

The companies’ combined profit in their latest fiscal years was about $60 billion, with three-fifths coming from Apple.

In court papers, two law firms representing the plaintiffs said Devine’s objection should not doom what they consider a fair and reasonable settlement for an antitrust case.

They pointed to a July 2012 jury verdict in the same court, finding that Toshiba Corp conspired to fix prices in the liquid crystal display market but awarding just $87 million of damages, one-tenth of what was sought.

“This settlement is in the best interests of the class and is fully informed by class counsel’s analysis of the evidence, case law, and risks at trial,” Kelly Dermody, a lawyer for the plaintiffs in the poaching case, wrote in a court filing.

Devine did not immediately respond on Friday to a request for comment. Dermody and Joseph Saveri, another lawyer for the plaintiffs, did not immediately respond to similar requests.

Koh on May 16 approved separate settlements totaling $20 million over alleged poaching by Walt Disney Co’s Lucasfilm and Pixar units, and by Intuit Inc.

The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California is In re: High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, 11-02509.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in Toronto; Additional reporting by Dan Levine in San Francisco)




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