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6 tech giants settle DOJ hiring lawsuit

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Six major technology companies have agreed to settle a federal lawsuit over what regulators say were anti-competitive hiring practices.

Adobe Systems, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit and Disney's Pixar had pacts to refrain from using certain recruiting techniques to poach employees from each other, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Washington.

These agreements, regulators said, hurt employees by limiting their ability to compete for better job opportunities.

The companies in question agreed to not cold call workers at rival firms, which regulators said is one of the key ways that big technology firms recruit new workers.

"The agreements challenged here restrained competition for affected employees without any procompetitive justification and distorted the competitive process," Molly Boast, an official in the Justice Department's antitrust division, said in a written statement.

Under the proposed settlement, which is subject to court approval, the companies will be bared from entering such agreements.

Amy Lambert, associate general counsel at Google, acknowledged that the internet company did have a "no cold call" policy in place for several years. But noted that Google continued to recruit from the companies named in the complaint via other means, including social media and job fairs.

"While there's no evidence that our policy hindered hiring or affected wages, we abandoned our 'no cold calling' policy in late 2009 once the Justice Department raised concerns, and are happy to continue with this approach as part of this settlement," she wrote in a blog post.

Meanwhile, Intel maintained that its policies were not illegal.

"Intel does not believe its actions violated the law nor does the company agree with the allegations," spokesman Chuck Malloy said in a prepared statement. "The company is settling the matter because it believes it would not harm the company or its ability to do business."

Intuit (INTU), which makes the well known tax software Turbotax, echoed Intel's statement.

"We have agreed to disagree with the DOJ on the issue of any wrongdoing in this matter," said Laura Fennell, Intuit senior vice president and general counsel. "The terms of the settlement will not have a significant impact on our business, so we have decided to resolve this matter."

Adobe (ADBE) also piled on, saying that it believes its recruiting tactics "have been consistent with the antitrust laws and have in no way diminished competition for talent in the marketplace."

Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) and Disney (DIS, Fortune 500) did not immediately respond to requests for comment. To top of page

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