(Adds quotes from court filing)
By Dan Levine
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 4 Four technology companies
including Apple and Google blasted a U.S.
judge for rejecting a proposed $324.5 million settlement over
hiring practices in Silicon Valley and asked an appeals court to
intervene, according to a court filing.
Plaintiff workers accused Apple, Google, Intel and
Adobe in a 2011 lawsuit of conspiring to avoid poaching
each other's employees.
Last month U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose,
California, rejected the proposed class action settlement,
saying the amount was too low.
In a court filing late on Thursday, the companies asked the
9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overrule Koh's decision.
Koh "committed clear legal error" and "impermissibly
substituted the court's assessment of the value of the case for
that of the parties who have been litigating the case for more
than three years," they wrote.
Adobe declined to comment, as did an attorney for the
plaintiffs. Representatives for the other three firms could not
immediately be reached for comment.
Tech employees alleged that the conspiracy limited their job
mobility and, as a result, kept a lid on salaries.
The case has been closely watched because of the possibility
of big damages being awarded and for the opportunity of a
glimpse into the world of some of America's elite tech firms.
Plaintiffs based their allegations of conspiracy largely on
emails circulated among Apple's late co-founder Steve Jobs,
former Google Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt, and some of
Plaintiff attorneys argued Koh should approve the deal
because the workers faced the risk of losing the case in an
In rejecting the proposed settlement, Koh cited "substantial
and compelling evidence" that Jobs "was a, if not the, central
figure in the alleged conspiracy."
Koh repeatedly referred to a related settlement last year
involving Disney and Intuit. Apple and Google workers got
proportionally less in the latest deal compared to the one
involving Disney, Koh wrote.
To match the earlier settlement, the latest deal "would need
to total at least $380 million," Koh wrote.
In the filing on Thursday, Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe
said Koh's approach was "rigid and formulaic."
Instead of approving the deal, Koh "dismissed the parties'
analysis of the trial risks, suggesting that, unless the
settlement was larger, the court had - in its own words -
'wasted years on this case.'"
A hearing before Koh is scheduled for Sept. 10. Earlier this
week both sides said they had resumed mediation talks.
The case is In Re: High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation,
U.S. District Court, Northern District of California 11-cv-2509.
(Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Miral Fahmy, Ryan Woo and