(Adds comment from plaintiffs' lawyer, details about
By Jonathan Stempel
May 23 Four major Silicon Valley companies have
formally agreed to pay $324.5 million to settle claims brought
by employees who accused them of limiting competition by
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 on
Thursday with a 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, Michael Devine, who says the
settlement let the companies off too easily.
The payout was originally reported by Reuters but not
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 limit competition and keep wages down for
engineers, programmers and other technical staff.
The case has been closely watched because of the potential
$9 billion of damages sought, and its occasional embarrassing
revelations into how Silicon Valley operates.
Among the communications that became public were pointed
emails from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs that at times admonished
then-Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt to stop raiding his
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, and which
serves the best interests of the class.
They pointed to a July 2012 jury verdict in the same court
that found Toshiba Corp conspired to fix prices in the
liquid crystal display market but awarded just $87 million of
damages, one-tenth of what was sought.
"The amount of the settlement does not relate to the size or
profitability of the companies we sued," Joseph Saveri, a lawyer
for the plaintiffs, said in an interview. "It relates to the
claims we made, the law that applies to them, and the facts that
we could prove at trial. Based on that, I think the settlement
is a significant achievement."
Devine did not immediately respond on Friday to a request
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,
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in Toronto; Additional reporting
by Dan Levine in San Francisco; Editing by Paul Simao)