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Google, Apple and Others Accused of 'No Poaching' Deal

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the stories-that-don't-involve-deer-and-the-king's-land dept.

Businesses 276

lightbox32 writes "According to the Wall Street Journal, several of the US's largest technology companies, which include Google, Apple, Intel, Adobe, Intuit and Pixar Animation, are in the final stages of negotiations with the Justice Department to avoid a court battle over whether they colluded to hold down wages by agreeing not to poach each other's employees. 'The Justice Department would have to convince a court not just that such accords existed, but that workers had suffered significant harm as a result. The companies may not want to take a chance in court. If the government wins, it could open the floodgates for private claimants, even a class action by employees. A settlement would allow the Justice Department to halt the practice, without the companies having to admit to any legal violations.'"

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And this is a bad thing? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33620756)

They are private companies, and if they want to make some agreements among themselves there is no law to stop them. People just are after them because they have money.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (0)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#33620786)

agreed.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#33620798)

Keeping wages artificially low is hardly "just some companies making a deal". It's anti-competitive and disrupts the marketplace. It's also illegal.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (5, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621038)

Yep. I'm a pretty hard core capitalist, in that I believe it is the only fundamental system that works. However that doesn't mean it doesn't need some regulation. Reason is that capitalism only works when there is competition. When companies fight people win. This applies not only in terms of product competition, but competition for employees as well. The incentive to keep working conditions good, pay high, and so on is that if you don't, you'll lose good people to other companies.

Well, just like this any other kind of collusion, if they collude to keep pay down, that is anti-competitive and hurts things in the long run.

For that matter, that sort of thing leads back to what originally started unions. Something mining companies were particularly good at was removing any mobility you had. You'd find a mining town and the only stores in town were owned by the mining company. As a miner, you had no choice but to shop there. They charged outrageous prices, which in tandem with low wages meant you had to run credit. You got indebted to the company and couldn't leave.

Now obviously this is far less odious, but it is the same kind of thing just a much lesser degree. They want to artificially depress prices and work to remove mobility from the employees. You get a job at one company, and the others just won't hire you. That then lets them pay less, and care less about quality of work environment.

Remember that the reason to like capitalism isn't for its own sake, but because it gives us a society that is over all the best for people, one where people are better off over all than any other. What that also means is we shouldn't just take a hands off "Anything goes," idea. When something runs counter to that, we need to step in and regulate it. That really is the function of government after all.

It is rarely the case that extremes work well, and capitalism is no exception. It works extremely well, but that doesn't mean you let it run rampant and have an "anything goes" kind of attitude. You regulate and balance it to try and create a system that has the greatest overall benefit.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (2, Insightful)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621240)

Remember that the reason to like capitalism isn't for its own sake, but because it gives us a society that is over all the best for people, one where people are better off over all than any other.

No, "we" like capitalism because it glorifies being a greedy pig who can afford to overindulge while making fun of all the have-nots created by "our" hoarding. "We" just love it that those anti-materialist, unambitious scumbags have to either get with the program and sell out or become disenfranchised and do without the basics of life! Yep, that there's what "we" call justice, citizen!

***sigh***

The USA I grew up in no longer exists.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (0, Troll)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621638)

It never existed, and neither did the Unicorns you probably think existed when you grew up. There is no perfectsystem, and capitalism is horrible - the only thing worse is every other system.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (2, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621278)

Well reasoned.

One minor point: No part of this practice is consistent capitalism.

Capitalism requires free markets. If the allegations are true, these companies worked directly to destroy the free market.

The right to sell one's own labor in the market place is the most fundamental and essential market of all.

Destroying markets to gain monopoly advantage is not part of capitalism.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621648)

Sigh.

Free Market... that phrase...it doesn't mean what you think it means.

A market where every actor is totally free to make choices on how they buy or sell their product/services is "free". Ergo, a market in which trusts and other consensual agreements and monopoly abuse are allowed is a free market.

Note I'm not saying that's ideal, just that you're using words wrong. Ideally you want a minimally regulated market, not one with no regulation.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621694)

Your own definition is internally inconsistent.

You seem to stumble on the definition of "every".

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621048)

It's not like they control the market on developers. Unlike the price collusion on LCD panels where there were literally only a handful of manufacturers, this is simply a list of high-profile, high-paying employers. They don't corner the market on jobs.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (2, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621668)

But they do reduce it considerably. If you try to kill someone and fail, it doesn't mean you did nothing wrong.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (2, Interesting)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621056)

FWIW they claim keeping wages low wasn't the intent of the agreement :

"The companies have argued to the government that there's nothing anticompetitive about the no-poaching agreements. They say they must be able to offer each other assurances that they won't lure away each others' star employees if they are to collaborate on key innovations that ultimately benefit the consumer."

They have a point. You could spin it as beneficial to employees because it protects the employer from being hurt by competitors hiring away key people (that's economic warfare instead of competing) and it keeps the salaries of "superstars" from inflating to artificial highs (bubbles help no-one.) But it's clearly a grey area.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33621092)

You call this a gray area? Its Southern cotton growers saying they benefit consumers by using slave labor to harvest their crops.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621388)

You call this a gray area? Its Southern cotton growers saying they benefit consumers by using slave labor to harvest their crops.

But that's not true. The cotton growers are better of with workers they are paying the same they would have to pay for feeding and housing slaves (or maybe even less), and when they cannot work any more, instead of paying money to buy new slaves, they just employ the next underpaid worker. It's far cheaper for them. Slavery is only lucrative if there's no supply of workers who are willing to do the work despite of extremely low pay and being treated like slaves.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (3, Insightful)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621118)

FWIW they claim keeping wages low wasn't the intent of the agreement :

If you believe that, then I have some prime real estate and a bridge to sell to you.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

Haeleth (414428) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621270)

You could spin it as beneficial to employees because [...] it keeps the salaries of "superstars" from inflating to artificial highs

Hurrah! Thank you, noble executives, for colluding to make sure that the people who work their pants off to make you rich will never themselves receive anything like as much compensation as you do! We are truly, truly grateful that our salaries are not inflated like yours are.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621298)

In my experience the (often self-annointed) "superstars" are seldom the people working their pants off, YMMV. Big differences in pay are also bad for moral as evidenced by your post. The solution is bringing executive pay down not raising the salaries of another chosen few to ridiculous levels.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621680)

Yes. Only executive pay should bubble.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

pitchpipe (708843) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621104)

Keeping wages artificially low is hardly "just some companies making a deal". It's anti-competitive and disrupts the marketplace. It's also illegal.

Yeah, but not the "true" marketplace. This is just some lowlife "individuals" wanting to make more than they deserve (anything that doesn't involve an MBA should be capped at $100k). It shouldn't be too hard for these god-like beings (corporations) to get this to silently go away.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621380)

anything that doesn't involve an MBA should be capped at $100k

What an incredibly idiotic thing to say! Let me guess, you have or are working toward an MBA?

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

ninly (988438) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621646)

What an incredibly idiotic thing to say!

Read again: I think that was an unpunctuated quotation of the "sentiment" behind the lowlife individuals that pitchpipe was criticizing.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

GreyLurk (35139) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621400)

Wish I had mod points to mod this as flamebait...

Only people with MBAs should make more than $100k? You're joking right? Why is a Masters degree in Business Administration more valuable than a PHd in Computational Linguistics just to grab an example out of midair?

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621598)

I'm sure this was sarcasm. While I don't completely rule out someone seriously considering corporations "god-like beings", I consider it extremely unlikely, and even more unlikely that someone like that would post on Slashdot.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

EllisDees (268037) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621674)

>anything that doesn't involve an MBA should be capped at $100k

Right, because MBAs are sooooo valuable to a company. *boggle*

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621152)

Really? Illegal? How do the various salary caps for teams get by in sports leagues?

Or are you trying to say that you had to work at one of those companies because they are the only places that you can work and you are incapable of doing something else? For it to be illegal they'd have to control the market. Those companies do not control the IT job market, they don't even control a tiny percentage of it. So it doesn't really matter what deals they make, there are plenty of other companies not making any such agreement which could pay more if they wanted too and you were worth it.

So its okay for the NFL, NBA, and MLB to have salary caps, and they pretty much are monopolies, but its not okay for a tiny percentage of the market to agree not start a wage war with each other ...

The reality of it is this is simply a side effect of the laws of supply and demand. The demand for workers is far lower than the supply, so they simply don't need to poach to get qualified employees.

Sorry, but its not these companies fault that you're in a field with people that are just as qualified as you are that don't have some sort of entitlement issue and are more than happy to work for a reasonable wage.

If their wages were so terrible, people wouldn't be tripping over themselves to work at these companies when there are clearly alternatives available. No one is forced to work at Intel. Every single person at Intel is capable of getting a job elsewhere by just saying the worked at Intel. Hell, they could get fired and have it spread all over the Internet and they'd STILL get hired by SOMEONE just by name dropping, its not like these people don't have options, and in fact have MORE options by working at these companies which are supposedly 'hurting' them.

Maybe ... just MAYBE ... you aren't really worth what you think you're worth.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

rockout (1039072) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621396)

Those salary caps you cited are completely out in the open and agreed upon by the owners and the players' associations. Without those players' unions, the players would be making far, far less money than they do under the current salary caps (and they did make far less, in the old days). If these current allegations are true, it's a completely different set of circumstances - companies secretly agreeing not to poach in order to hold down salaries is what we don't like. If there were unions for these employees and they agreed upon caps that were tied to the revenue of those companies (like the NHL does) that would be different.

This situation is more akin to the old days of baseball, when players could not be signed by a different team, and the owners kept almost all of the money that their teams made. It's all just a fight over who gets what percentage. The owners in this case (Google, Apple execs, etc) are pushing to keep more money for shareholders and give less to the talent. The talent wants more of the profits to be directed to their salaries. That's fine as long as the methods are out in the open. Secret collusion is what's illegal, not salary caps.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621174)

As I understand it, all they agreed to was to not actively contact each other's employees to offer them jobs. In other words, the employees could at any time have asked the other company if they had better jobs, it's just that they would have to become active themselves. Right?

If so, then how is this keeping wages artificially low? It only means that people not actively seeking for a position with more money not getting offers for such a position. In which case I'd say, if they don't seek for it, they cannot complain that they don't get it. After all, there's no inherent right to get job offers you didn't ask for. Otherwise, could the jobless who never contacted a potential employer also complain because no potential employer ever contacted him?

Re:And this is a bad thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33621586)

"It's also illegal."

Now they tell me. Back in the early 1990s when I was working at a gold mine in Nevada, Management was very open that the mines in the area had agreements not to hire each other's employees. They didn't treat it like a secret. This was before Newmont and Barrick had assimilated nearly everyone else.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (2, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 4 years ago | (#33620808)

Well, there are antitrust laws that preclude them from collusion, both in the customer marketplace and in the labor market. I don't necessarily agree with such manipulation of markets, but such collusion is as anti-competitive as was Microsoft's attempted collusion with Netscape (divide the browser between Windows and everything else) and Apple ("knife the baby").

So if you were calling for blood when Microsoft was doing it, you should be calling for blood when Google or Apple does it, at least if you're trying to be consistent.
 

Re:And this is a bad thing? (2, Interesting)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 4 years ago | (#33620998)

Well, there are antitrust laws that preclude them from collusion, both in the customer marketplace and in the labor market. I don't necessarily agree with such manipulation of markets, but such collusion is as anti-competitive as was Microsoft's attempted collusion with Netscape (divide the browser between Windows and everything else) and Apple ("knife the baby").

Most anti-trust laws like the Sherman Anti-trust act apply to trusts like monopolies and cartels. And they apply to products and services to consumers, not labor unless the product or service was labor (i.e. a temp agency). Before any anti-trust laws can apply, there must be a trust established. I don't think that anyone can argue Apple nor Google has any control of labor. The situation might be different if it was two temp agencies that controlled the temp supply in a region. It may be illegal for other reasons but not for anti-trust.

So if you were calling for blood when Microsoft was doing it, you should be calling for blood when Google or Apple does it, at least if you're trying to be consistent.

*Sigh* Microsoft did not get in trouble for having a monopoly. There are many cases where having a monopoly is perfectly legal. Microsoft got in trouble for using monopoly power to harm competitors and partners. In this case, Apple and Google may have agreed not to actively pursue other employees; however, I did not see that they prevented people from leaving voluntarily. If anything this helps competitors; Apple won't look at Google employees? Nothing stops Microsoft/Yahoo/Oracle/etc from doing so.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33620840)

I'm assuming the people who agree with this statement are the ones who despise unions, even though they are doing the same thing.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

Crast (764714) | more than 4 years ago | (#33620850)

Law or not, last I checked Google, Apple, Intel, Adobe, and Intuit were all publicly traded companies. Unless they told their shareholders about this deal, it seems like at least they should have a say on this one.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33620894)

Law or not, last I checked Google, Apple, Intel, Adobe, and Intuit were all publicly traded companies. Unless they told their shareholders about this deal, it seems like at least they should have a say on this one.

And I'm pretty sure Shareholders would have loved it. Keep wages low, keeps profit high = happy shareholders.

Why do you think layoffs make shareholders happy?

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

mjwx (966435) | more than 4 years ago | (#33620930)

Unless they told their shareholders about this deal,

You think the shareholders care about that?

All shareholders care about is higher divs (well not APPL share holders, but they "Greed Different"). Why the hell would shareholders stop this if it wasn't illegal and enforced?

Re:And this is a bad thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33621170)

Yes its a bad thing - its called stifling the market place - anti-competitive - etc. Maybe you should google collusion for starters

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

gtirloni (1531285) | more than 4 years ago | (#33620898)

Next time all telecoms agree behind the scenes to keep the prices up to help each other, tell me what you think. I'm sure you will say they are private companies

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33620914)

I've personally been in a circumstance (which I found out about afterwards) where I had my employer threaten a vendor of ours about hiring me. The conversations, which would have doubled my pay, stopped dead and I had no idea why at the time. I only found out after my former VP left that it had taken place.

This stuff happens A LOT, especially in vendor relationships. The problem in our industry is that all the major companies buy stuff from each other. In my specific case, I was pretty upset that my former employer had blocked such a major career step forward when I found out.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

FranTaylor (164577) | more than 4 years ago | (#33620938)

So let me get this straight:

"first sale" doctrine is dead so they can force their prices down our throats and we cannot bargain.

Now we cannot bargain for wages either and that's okay too?

Tell me is there any limit to corporate power at all?

Re:And this is a bad thing? (3, Informative)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 4 years ago | (#33620952)

Uh, yes there laws to stop them. This is why the JUSTICE DEPARTMENT is investigating them. Because what they're accused of is illegal.

How the fuck were you modded insightful? Is Rush Limbaugh a /. mod?

Re:And this is a bad thing? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33620962)

You know what? You're absolutely right. Industry should have the absolute word on what they do for their hiring practices.

They are private companies. If they want to do these things, they should be able.

If they want to not hire old people... Tough, it's private industry, man!

Or black people. Now, I'm not a racist. Many of my friends are black. But if a private company wants to refuse employment to black people, who am I to tell them "no, you can't make private business decisions about your private business"! God, we live in such a nanny-state these days.

And those disableds, you know, the funny-looking, wheelchair ones. If the boss doesn't want those guys cramping their style, I say, give them the boot.

And if people want to unionize? Tough shit! The boss owns the company, not the unions, not the gub'ment, so they should keep their gritty hands off.

I am really afraid that the openness of private industry is inhibited by preventing hiring decisions. Think of the economic damage caused by letting all these undesirables get hired! Can you imagine? Some of them might actually make a living!

</hyperbole> Damn, the Reagan era and all of the bullshit that followed has really contaminated people. Employees being able to "play the field" and better negotiate their salary is a good thing. For crying out loud, even you free market idiots in the audience should like it, because it allows employee wages to be set by the free market. But some people will go so far to defend the actions of corporate oligarchs that they are willingly blind to such realities...

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621046)

You forgot people who get cancer and cause spikes in the employer's share of health insurance premiums.

"Hmm, that sore throat of yours has gone on quite a while... YOU'RE FIRED!"

And shouldn't a private company be allowed to require hot subordinates to fuck their boss to get a promotion or raise? Why would we interfere in their HR practices?

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621002)

These agreements are standard fair when companies sign contracts to do business. Intel has a contract to design parts for Apple, Apple had a contract to share services with Google, Apple would have a contract with Adobe to share things like PDF support and such, etc. Not poaching employees from another company under contract is a standard business contract. Pretty much any company that hires a "consultant" from another company has such agreements in place because close business relationships often mean the other company's employees are working at your offices, closely with your employees.... if companies couldn't make such agreements, nobody would be able to do business without worrying that the company with the upper hand would poach their best people. Employees of these companies have access to internal things like email addresses and phone lists... companies would NEVER share that stuff without assurances it doesn't end up in the HR office the next day.... it's basic business ethics.

It may be used to keep labor wages down, but the cost to companies is bigger than any "individual" wage being paid. You'll note who's NOT on the list... companies known for "collaborating" then sucker punching their partners out of contracts by swiping the key knowledge employees and renege on contracts. Every company I've worked at has these type of agreements when they use contractors, OEM services, or large purchasing agreements.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621158)

These agreements are standard fair when companies sign contracts to do business. Intel has a contract to design parts for Apple, Apple had a contract to share services with Google, Apple would have a contract with Adobe to share things like PDF support and such, etc. Not poaching employees from another company under contract is a standard business contract.

And perhaps it is reasonable if it is limited to only those employees working on the joint projects where contact is established through the contract. Otherwise, it's simply an anti-competitive move to keep wages down.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33621268)

I disagree - most tech companies have their employees sign a non-compete contract. I signed one when at Intel as a developer/designer for many years. Basically barring me from going to work for a competitor AND doing work in a area that directly competes with Intels work. Meaning if you are a expert in CPU pipe-line design at Intel you can go to work for Nvidia BUT you cannot jump into pipe-line design at Nvidia. You'll have to work on something else for 6 - 8 - 12 months. When you become a senior key player that contract typically is updated so that you cannot even work at a competing company for 6 - 12 months.

This is enough protection for companies

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621004)

Yes it's a bad thing.

Let's say you're a mathematician that specializes in search algorithms. For whatever reason, you want to leave Google - it's beside the point as to why. There aren't too many places where you can work in that specialty. And as everyone who has tried to make a career change even within the same industry (ex: becoming a network admin after years as a C++ programmer), is nearly impossible because of the pigeon holing that corp America does; so the mathematician won't be able to just switch to statistics or whatever.

Either they do away with this rule or I think a law should be created that, if a company has this rule, then they should pay a lifetime and a half of said person's salary, inflation adjusted of course, if they have to leave - for whatever reason.

Unfair to the company? No more "unfair" than this rule is to the employee.

Oh, and whether they're private (they're not) or public is irrelevant.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621100)

And what search engine are the kept from working for? It's true that Google has some monopoly power, but I can't see how this is an abuse or even use of it at all.

Re:And this is a bad thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33621102)

I agree when it comes to cooperation and agreement between companies on several things, even some agreements to lock out poaching for X years or whatever for the sake of keeping each others companies stable. (seriously, it isn't all that good being one of the only companies in markets sometimes, it can go the opposite way and strain your company too much compared to actually having some competitors, and then you'd probably get the Monopoly guy knocking on the door down the line)
Even companies working towards a shared profit is perfectly fine if they do it fairly.
But when it is at the expense of employees salaries being kept so low, that crosses a line that shouldn't be crossed.
If there has been any wrongdoing to that extent, it should be found and dealt with seriously.

The opposite has already happened, and still happens right now in the telecomms markets, whether it is phones, cells or internet connectivity.
But nobody seems to be giving a damn about doing anything. The UK only marginally managed to shake-up BT when it was abusing its position in the market. (but that is of a slightly different topic in that case)

Re:And this is a bad thing? (1)

Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621678)

So much for that "free market" bullshit.

The government is the great equalizer. It exists to represent the people's interest (at least in theory). Business represents its interests... not yours.

Unfortunately Business knows this, and that is why they've corrupted our government in their favor.

Its nice to see the Gov doing what it is supposed to do. Referee the game and represent the people's interest.

so what's the free market solution? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33620766)

libertarians?

Re:so what's the free market solution? (2, Insightful)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#33620770)

The companies were already engaging in the free market solution.

Re:so what's the free market solution? (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 4 years ago | (#33620852)

Collusion is illegal. I've even known true Randroids who understood that there have to be enforcement mechanisms.

Re:so what's the free market solution? (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621672)

Collusion is not illegal. Certain types of collusion are illegal.

By the way - there's nothing illegal about what they're doing in this case.

The devil in the details (3, Interesting)

alphatel (1450715) | more than 4 years ago | (#33620816)

The following companies confirmed they were questioned but have been relieved of the Justice Department investigation:

IBM
Microsoft
Yahoo
Genentech


The agency has decided not to pursue charges against companies that had what it believes were legitimate reasons for agreeing not to poach each other's employees, said people familiar with the matter. Instead, it's focusing on cases in which it believes the non-solicit agreement extended well beyond the scope of any collaboration.

Re:The devil in the details (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621058)

Of course IBM was - for the exception of some token R&D projects in Austin, they sent all of their R&D and IT jobs overseas. The only things left here in the States are salesmen and management and other assorted business support services.

IBM has become just an Indian tech reseller.

Re:The devil in the details (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33621214)

Don't be ridiculous.

I work for IBM (standard disclaimer - I do not speak for the company, these are my opinions etc etc), and I know for a fact that they have tech labs all across the planet.

Yes, they scaled down their North American ops a little while ago, but the accusation that they've moved all the R&D or IT to India (or wherever is cheapest) is flat out false.

Re:The devil in the details (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33621368)

Wrong. Ignorant. And of course, doesn't try to back up anything with facts.

IBM's semiconductor research and a lot of other MatSci stuff still goes on in the Northeast. Little else that IBM does could be called R&D. IT jobs overseas I can hardly blame them for - yeah, I don't like it, but it's unreasonable to expect a business to let itself fail to make a principled point.

Re:The devil in the details (2, Interesting)

Ambiguous Puzuma (1134017) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621584)

Of course IBM was - for the exception of some token R&D projects in Austin, they sent all of their R&D and IT jobs overseas. The only things left here in the States are salesmen and management and other assorted business support services.

IBM has become just an Indian tech reseller.

Then explain these job opening totals [netmedia1.com] :

Engineering (hardware): USA 67, India 0, China 17, Other 47
IT & Telecommunications (non consulting): USA 233, India 181, China 113, Other 574
Research: USA 125, India 4, China 8, Other 29
Software Development: USA 126, India 50, China 320, Other 468
All categories combined: USA 2781, India 615, China 1043, Other 3596

Or are you claiming the R&D is outsourced to other companies (as opposed to working for IBM overseas), in which case I'd have to ask which companies? As far as I can tell IBM owns more pure research facilities [ibm.com] than most companies. Note that three out of the eight are in the US, while no other country has more than one.

Re:The devil in the details (1)

cyphercell (843398) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621068)

over the years I'm becoming embarrassed to work in this industry, your list was modded up, because everyone knows there are very, very, few honest tables in the casino.

Re:The devil in the details (5, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621140)

I hope you're being sarcastic.

Collusion of any kind should never be allowed, as it distorts freedom and hurts consumers (and workers).

One of the reasons I quit IEEE is because I got tired of reading articles from them about how the government needs to allow more H1B1 visas to hire foreign engineers/programmers. Clearly IEEE was colluding with corporations and representing their interests. Why would I want to face competition from Temp Engineers willing to work at $15/hour? If companies face a shortage, let them hire some unemployed or fresh-out-of-college Americans rather than import workers. So I stepped sending money to IEEE.

Re:The devil in the details (1)

thoughtsatthemoment (1687848) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621570)

If companies face a shortage, hire some unemployed or fresh-out-of-college Americans rather than import workers

You make it sound like software engineering is utility. Importing workers has a cost too and salaries of HIB1 are public and they are not lower than others. Basically companies get more talents to choose from and of course some local people would hate that. These Temp Labors you are talking about work in the field under the sun and you are not competing with them unless you want to work there.

Re:The devil in the details (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621664)

the IEEE is supposed to be an institute that furthers the needs and status of institute members, that is the chartered engineers themselves NOT the employers. It should be working to uphold the status of the chartered engineer in society and ensuring the experience and qualifications required to gain chartered status are respected and valued appropriately.

Re:The devil in the details (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621274)

The agency has decided not to pursue charges against companies that had what it believes were legitimate reasons for agreeing not to poach each other's employees,

What are these 'legitimate reasons'? Why can't Google, Apple, Intel, et al just use those as a defense?

Re:The devil in the details (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33621394)

It'd be too obvious if nobody got fucked.

Re:The devil in the details (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621572)

Well, the reasons might involve portraits of Ben Franklin. We'll give you a thousand good reasons we shouldn't be investigates...

Microsoft? It just so happens.... (2, Interesting)

N0Man74 (1620447) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621600)

I happened to work in a place where both HP and Microsoft employees in close proximity, and I was informed by many employees that there were agreements that the other would not hire the workers of one, until they had been away from their respective company for at least 6 months...

I knew guys on the HP side that wanted to work for Microsoft, but they couldn't afford a 6 month vacation in order to get a job elsewhere...

And as part of the deal... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33620820)

the techc companies will also agree not to lure away government tech workers with promises of higher salaries in the private sector.

Re:And as part of the deal... (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 4 years ago | (#33620940)

>>the techc companies will also agree not to lure away government tech workers with promises of higher salaries in the private sector.

As long as the government agrees not to do the same.

Oh, wait! Damn! Collusion!

Don't be evil ... (1)

ad454 (325846) | more than 4 years ago | (#33620954)

Don't be evil ... [wikipedia.org]

... unless it gets in the way of making a huge profit on the backs of your underpaid employees, assisting with censorship, handing over political dissidents to tyrannical regimes, or releasing a mobile operating system that is open only to the carriers & manufacturers but not the users (who can't install binary apps outside of a java sandbox)!

Re:Don't be evil ... (1)

The Second Horseman (121958) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621440)

Seriously, that's the least of it. Eric Schmidt is now regularly making grand, dystopian predictions as if his vision of the future is all we deserve. Add a big, swivel chair and a Persian cat and he'd come off like a Bond villain. Because remember, the little people don't deserve the privacy that HE deserves. After all, our privacy gets in the way of his profits. As do some laws. So we'd better change those to his liking in a hurry!

iJobs? (0, Flamebait)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | more than 4 years ago | (#33620956)

I think it's very possible that Steve Jobs is at the heart of this. Take in the factor the common knowledge that Steve Jobs has always been a nickel and dimer with Apple having long been one of the lowest paying big name hi-tech firms in the Bay Area. So seeing both Pixar and Disney on this list is not in the least bit surprising. Then you take a look at Google and ask "How did that happen?" Well, considering that Eric Schmidt was an Apple board member not too long ago, the answer once again is Steve Jobs. Intel's and Jobs' relations have also been buddy-buddy and though Adobe and Steve's have been publicly acrimonious, they are still very close.

Not saying that this is indeed a fact, but considering half the companies on that list have Jobs at the helm and the others have direct dealings with him, it's hard not to bring this up.
Frankly, Jobs has looked like a bigger jerk than ever since he got his iLiver. For me at least, his image just keeps sinking lower and lower.

Re:iJobs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33621016)

Well it could turn out that Jobs paid the Chinese government for the liver knowing full well that they would murder a political dissident for it. Personally I'm still wondering how he got a new liver on his schedule.

So much for "Don't do evil" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33620976)

"Fool me once" and all that...

Re:So much for "Don't do evil" (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621242)

"Don't do evil" was dead long ago. Just look at past Slashdot stories (hint: search for donoevil).

If there's such a deal, it ain't workin' very well (2, Interesting)

mad.frog (525085) | more than 4 years ago | (#33620982)

...since one of my Adobe (former) co-workers just left for a gig at Pixar. Someone else left a while back for Google. And there are several ex-Apple folks on my team at Adobe.

Re:If there's such a deal, it ain't workin' very w (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33621520)

...since one of my Adobe (former) co-workers just left for a gig at Pixar. Someone else left a while back for Google. And there are several ex-Apple folks on my team at Adobe.

Posting anon, but I work at Intel and get hounded by Google to work for them. Anecdote I know, but this surprised me.

I'M GETTING PAID BITCHES! (0, Troll)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 4 years ago | (#33620988)

YEAH! I worked for one of these companies and now I can sue for ONE BILLION DOLLARS because I was told I couldn't go work for one of those other companies after I was fired!

BENTLEY AND MANSIONS HERE I COME!

[/sarcasm]

Seriously though, it's not like employees were prevented from ever working again, there was just a short list of a few companies that were direct competitors they couldn't go work for. How does that not make sense? No one wants their Director-of-100-Million-Dollar-Project walking off one day because the main competitor offered him double to recreate the project.

This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard, I'm pretty sure if some big US government nuclear scientist decided to go work for North Korea because the pay was better he'd be called a spy, but Yahoo tries to prevent Director of Whatever from working at Google then Yahoo's the bad guy?

pot meet kettle

Re:I'M GETTING PAID BITCHES! (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621110)

No one wants their Director-of-100-Million-Dollar-Project walking off one day because the main competitor offered him double to recreate the project.

Then be prepared to make certain that employee has no desire to go work for the main competitor. Isn't that how capitalism is supposed to work?

Re:I'M GETTING PAID BITCHES! (1)

cowboy76Spain (815442) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621114)

This has nothing to do to NDAs. If you read the articles and previous posts, you will see a list of bussiness who where relieved of the investigation because there were "legitimate reasons".

In short, if you own a car factory, you can agree with other car factories not to poach to avoid claims of NDA/IP breaches. You cannot agree to that with airplane factories because the only reason is not to pay the employees what they are worth.

It is curious that so many "free market" advocates forget about it when it does not bode well for bussiness. It is more curious that more of those advocates are not the bussiness owners, managers that would profit from these policies, but rather the ones that are getting in the "receiving end.

.

Re:I'M GETTING PAID BITCHES! (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621156)

No one wants their Director-of-100-Million-Dollar-Project walking off one day because the main competitor offered him double to recreate the project.

No one is saying that would happen and even if it did, there would be lawsuits over the intellectual property and trade secrets.

This is about allowing people to move to another employer using their skills. If you spent years in school studying and then years working in a field learning new skills that are very specific to an industry, according to these folks, you'd be stuck with one employer with no recourse if you had to leave. And if you left, what then? If your experience has been in search engines, where do you go if the other ones won't hire you? As we all know, corp America wants people to fit into their pidgeon holes.

Re:I'M GETTING PAID BITCHES! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33621230)

and there are legitimate, legal ways to prevent/limit valuable employees from doing so...

one of those ways is by requiring valuable employees to sign non-disclosure agreements that prevent employees from using covered proprietary information if they leave their employer...

another is to require those employees to sign non-compete agreements (which must be properly limited in scope, duration, and geographic area in order to be held valid)...

another is to pay your employees a fair market wage for their talents and abilities, so that they'll actually want to remain your employee...

making secret deals with your your competitors / collaborators to impair your employees' ability to make a fair wage, however, is neither legitimate nor legal...

No meaning ? (1)

daveime (1253762) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621028)

Why exactly is it called the "Justice Department" ?

Seems like if you are a corporation, you can avoid the whole "justice" bit just by having a few meetings with the "right people" and greasing some palms.

Re:No meaning ? (1)

daveime (1253762) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621050)

I mean, can a murderer negotiate with the Justice Department, so that he agrees to halt murdering anyone else, with having to admit to any murders he already committed ?

Re:No meaning ? (3, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621318)

"OK, we agreed that I do no further murders. But what about rapes?"
"Rapes? Did you ever rape someone?"
"No, because I murdered them. Since I cannot murder them in the future, I want to rape them instead."
"Well, what do you have to offer?"
"Well, I offer to never rob a bank."
"You haven't yet robbed a bank, have you?"
"But I could start to, and then it would cost you money to catch me."
"OK, makes sense. So, you never rob a bank, and we allow for one rape per year. You have to register each rape with us, though, with full details. And of course, should you ever rob a bank, your rape license will be void, and we will prosecute you for all rapes you already did."
"Well, the conditions seem reasonable. But only one rape a year? I thought more of something like one per month."
"That's not acceptable, sorry. The absolutely most we can offer you is three rapes per year. But that's our last offer."
"I'd say we have a deal."

Re:No meaning ? (1)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621386)

I hope you're joking (hard to tell), because things exactly like that do happen from time to time.

Re:No meaning ? (1)

daveime (1253762) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621658)

I think they call it "plea bargaining" in the US. You admit you did it, then they let you off to do it again.

It's the only way to curb their rampant healthcare costs for all the jailed prisoners complaining of mutilated assholes and inside out colons.

I'm confused... (1)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621032)

How is this legally different from a typical teaming agreement? The purpose of a teaming agreement is, in part, to keep wages reasonable by discouraging poaching. This is very common and legally enforceable in Virginia. If one our partners offers an employee a sweeter job, their ass is grass once Legal catches wind of it. If another large consulting company comes us to us and offers a large-scale agreement, I don't see a fundamental difference.

Doesn't mean I AGREE with that...

Re:I'm confused... (3, Insightful)

jpmorgan (517966) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621090)

It's illegal under federal law. Doesn't matter what state law says, if the Justice Department can convince a judge that federal law applies (not too hard).

Re:I'm confused... (4, Insightful)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621146)

The purpose of a teaming agreement is, in part, to keep wages reasonable by discouraging poaching

So, seeing past the substitution of the word "low" with the gentler word "reasonable", it basically is a form of anti-competitive collusion.

it's nonsense (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33621094)

I work at one of the companies in the investigation and I was recruited by another.

On top of that I've hired many people into the company I work for (which again is one of these) and my recruiter told me exactly what's allowed and what's not.

What isn't allowed:
Actively recruiting people from the other companies. That means no cold-calling, no standing outside their parking lot, no poaching at tech conferences.

What is allowed:
Hiring their people. If they submit their resume, it's fair game. If someone else submits their resume, it's fair game.

And on top of that, as I mentioned above, one of the companies even broke the rules to try to recruit me, so I'm sure the company I'm at does it too to the others.

Anyway, none of this really hurts the employees, if you want to find a new job, no doors are closed to you just put your resume out there.

On another note, not mentioned in this investigation (that I know of), the company I work at has a "freeze-out" on another company. Anyone who left this company to go there is blackballed and is not to be hired back. How long that will last I dunno, but for now they're very serious about it. This actually might hurt employees' career prospects and probably is illegal.

Oh, another another note, it's common in the industry to do salary surveys. Each year, the companies actually collude to share information about how much they are paying their employees in different positions and then they do equivalent rankings. They then report these figures as part of their annual compensation reviews/reports. I have to imagine sharing this information makes it a lot easier to put in place these "no cold calling" agreements.

Re:it's nonsense (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621686)

Mod parent up. This whole article is bullshit. Lots of people have migrated between these companies, ergo the claims are provably false.

Competitive labor markets (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621136)

You want competitive labor markets, you got competitive labor markets. These workers can try competing against workers in China, India, and other nations with a rapidly improving skill base in information technology and a lot of mouths to feed.

These employees should have got while the getting was good, and kept their mouths shut, because these companies had actually decided to keep them employed rather than shipping their jobs outside US borders. With this "gentleman's agreement" out of the way, what else is there to stop this from happening now?

Corporate fascism (2, Interesting)

edfardos (863920) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621216)

I've been trying to think of ways to describe how capitalism in the United States has degraded to Corporate Fascism. This is a fantastic example of corporate fascism -- something citizens can relate to; and these are just the corporations which got caught....

-edfardos

No, it isn't (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621428)

Rather than down mod this rather silly comment, I'll take it seriously. Fascism is a political system in which corporations collude with an autocratic government in exchange for special treatment. (Some people would say that Berlusconi's Italy is not that far off it.) Here, the Government is refusing to let corporations behave in an anti-competitive manner, whether they waste money on lawyers doing it, or agree to be good and keep the lawyers out. That looks to me like democracy. As for companies behaving like that - it's very common. And not always a bad thing. It usually only works if the workers cannot go elsewhere an earn more. That suggests, given the location of these companies, and the sort of people that they employ, that they would not earn more anywhere else. Actually, holding down wages at the top of a profession is sometimes a good thing; it makes for more economic stability given the fluctuations in the business cycle.

Apple Board Connection? (2, Interesting)

lordDallan (685707) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621306)

Am I the only person that sees the Apple board connection? Eric Schmidt(Google), Paul Otellini(Intel), Steve Jobs (Pixar/Disney), and Scott Cook(Intuit) all sat on Apple's board. I believe they even all server simultaneously. That's everyone but Adobe, who definitely has their ties with Apple too, even if those ties are strained right now.

Seems like more than a coincidence to me.

wage competition (1)

buzzn (811479) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621320)

Each of these companies sets employee wages (at annual performance review time) by referring to a survey of all the other companies' wages. Their target is, strangely enough, the "average" wage. This is itself a kind of collusion to keep wages down, by pointing the finger at each other. Sorry! Can't pay you more than everyone else gets paid. But on the other hand, it makes economic sense. Everyone gets a fair wage, which for a software engineer is far more than you'd be making assembling cars, and companies don't in general pay more than they have to. The wild card, of course, is options. Pick the right rocket, and all of these little issues about salary won't matter so much.

Re:wage competition (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621470)

this is why coders need a decent union, after all the CORPORATIONS are using collective bargaining, but it's bad if the workers do.

Is it so hard to find good people? (3, Insightful)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621382)

What I love are the contortions employers go through to complain that they can't find talented people while doing everything they can to make sure they don't accidentally hire talent. Ranges from interpreting experiences and education as not applicable or relevant to flat out just not believing the resume, though they don't put it that way of course. Things like declaring that Windows Server 2003 experience doesn't count for Windows Server 2008. We've all heard the stories about the requirements for more years of experience than is possible. And who knows, maybe they've made a subjective evaluation that they just don't like this dorky geek they're interviewing and are trying to push his buttons, trying to create the excuse they need to show him the door. The way things should work is that a CS degree ought to be enough for a development position, period. And that no one earns such a degree if they can't develop. Post a "help wanted" ad, and take the next appropriately degreed person who walks in the door. I think it nearly was that easy to get professional work in the 1950's. But now?

And then they poach each other? These employers are like the sort of women who think all single men are single because there's something wrong with them, and spend all their time trying to steal married men away from their wives. It's an understandable kind of mental laziness. Why go to all the trouble of thoroughly checking someone out when it's easier to let others do that and then lure away their picks? However, they have to balance that with several worries. Not all picks are good ones. If he could be lured away once, he could be lured away again. Or that a prospect might be a waste of time because he's faithful and satisfied and can't be lured away.

Non-poaching agreements definitely damage the unemployed. It might seem the other way. If an employer can't poach, the only place to look is the market. But in balance, I think that benefit is outweighed by the lower compensation they can pay, and the effects that has on everyone. Without such anti-competitive measures, some of these employers would more often take a chance on someone who is less likely to be tempted away and who can be hired for less.

stymie competition (1)

DaveGod (703167) | more than 4 years ago | (#33621452)

This is probably just an agreement not to pinch staff in order to stymie a competitor. Sure you can recruit staff because you want to do something better, and in general this is good for the public, but you can also do it just to stop the competitor doing something better than you. Like grab key staff in a key department, not because you have any particular use to them but because frankly it's worth you paying them just to not go and work at the other guy. This is a tactic that involves everybody losing, but you losing a little less than everyone else. It protects losers and is underhand bad practice, it's not any good for the consumer.

This only really applies to the high-fliers or significant numbers of a department/branch/project/whatever (particularly those on collaborations). The objective is not some kind of conspiracy to hold down wages, and any hope of achieving that would be pretty laughable. I've no sympathy for employees complaining that stopping the above underhand tactics loses them financial opportunities as it is just as unethical to take advantage of it.

Agreements would only extend headhunting/approaching employees, if they apply for jobs under their own volition they're completely fair game.

silly me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33621486)

And here I thought the way they were keeping wages "reasonable" was by offshoring a job any time the pay approached unreasonable.

Intervene. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33621588)

10 Intervene.
20 Close deal.
30 REM Companies poach.
40 One company gets the upper hand, say Google or Apple.
50 Company grows into a monster.
60 Smaller companies cry monopoly.
70 Intervene.
80 Change regulations some more.
90 GOTO 10, pithily

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