Four major technology firms agreed to pay a combined $324.5 million to settle what essentially boiled down to a wage-fixing lawsuit. Employees of Adobe
, and Intel
alleged that their employers conspired to suppress salaries by secretly agreeing not to poach talent from each other. More than 64,000 workers were represented in the lawsuit.
The employees settled for far less than the $3 billion they were planning to seek if the case went to trial, which was set for May 27. Federal antitrust law allows for damages awards to be tripled, so the four companies involved could have potentially been fined $9 billion if the employees took the case to trial and won.
Plaintiffs in the case allege that the four companies colluded from 2005 to 2009. According to Bloomberg
, emails and court documents didn't look good for the defendants, especially Apple' co-founder Steve Jobs and Google chairman Eric Schmidt. In one instance, the court documents reference a conversation Jobs had with Google co-founder Sergey Brin in which he threatened to go to war against Google if the company poached talent away from Apple.
As the settlement is drawn up, lawyers for the workers would receive as much 25 percent of attorneys' fees, plus up to $1.2 million in expenses. Each plaintiff who served as a class representative would receive around $80,000.