Tim Cook Ordered To Give Deposition In Antitrust Case Over ‘No-Hire’ Agreements

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Apple CEO Tim Cook must provide a deposition in a lawsuit that claims the Cupertino company, along with other major firms in Silicon Valley, violated antitrust rules by entering into an agreement not to recruit each other’s employees. Apple’s lawyer, George Riley, had objected to the order handed out by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, on Thursday.

Other companies included in the lawsuit include Google, Intel, Adobe, Walt Disney, Pixar, and Intuit. The case, which was brought on behalf of employees, claims that all seven parties had agreed to refrain from placing “cold calls” in an effort to lure workers away from one another. The plaintiffs claim that as a result of this, worker mobility was restricted, and companies were able to keep salaries low.

Koh told lawyers on Thursday that Apple co-founder and former CEO was copied into emails that had been issued in the case, and that she found it “hard to believe” that Cook — then Apple’s chief operating officer — would have been unaware of such agreements. Koh added that she was disappointed that senior executives at the companies involved hadn’t beed deposed before yesterday’s hearing.

Koh also requested that Google chairman Eric Schmidt be deposed on February 20, while Intel CEO Paul Otellini will be deposed later this month.

Robert Mittelstaedt, a lawyer representing the companies, argued that there was no evidence that everyone in the proposed class was hurt by the alleged “no-hire” agreement — which is required for the group to be certified as a class.

“You can’t assume that if someone got a raise from a cold call” that the effect of that negotiation would “ripple to everybody else,” Mittelstaedt told Koh. “Why would a company give a raise to someone in a negotiation if it knew it had to turn around and give a raise to everyone else?”

A Justice Department investigation into this issue back in 2010 said that the companies kept do-not-call lists to avoid competitive recruiting, and that this hurt employees. It also found that in May 2005, executives from Adobe and Apple agreed not to cold-call each other’s employees. Apple was said to have similar agreements with Google and Pixar, while Google had an agreement with Intel and Intuit.

Source: Bloomberg