The case against high-tech employers conspiring to keep employee wages lower is about to get a whole lot more interesting. News from the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday shows that it reached a settlement with eBay Inc. (NASDAQ: EBAY) that prevents the company from entering into or maintaining agreements with other companies restraining employee recruitment and hiring.
The lawsuit alleges that senior executives and directors of eBay and Intuit Inc. (NASDAQ: INTU) entered into an agreement, beginning no later than 2006, that prevented each firm from recruiting employees from the other and that prohibited eBay from hiring Intuit employees that approached eBay.
The proposed settlement would prohibit eBay from entering or maintaining anticompetitive agreements relating to employee hiring and retention for five years. Intuit is already subject to a similar consent decree, and for that reason was not a defendant in this case.
Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, said:
eBay’s agreement with Intuit served no purpose but to limit competition between the two firms for employees, distorting the labor market and causing employees to lose opportunities for better jobs and higher pay. The proposed settlement resolves the department’s antitrust concerns and ensures that eBay will not engage in similar conduct in the future.
The Justice Department news release also said:
In the high technology sector, employees with advanced or specialized skills are highly valued and sought after. Companies often heavily recruit and hire experienced and capable employees of other technology firms, offering significantly better job opportunities or pay. The agreement between eBay and Intuit diminished important competition between the firms to attract highly skilled technical and other employees to the detriment of affected employees who had less access to better job opportunities and higher pay.
Again, this is perhaps just the tip of the iceberg in a much broader topic. The release shows the following companies specifically named in a case going back to 2012, and even farther:
- Adobe Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: ADBE)
- Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL)
- Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG)
- Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC)
- Intuit Inc. (NASDAQ: INTU)
- Pixar and LucasFilms were also mentioned, now both part of Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS)
Proving whether other companies agreed to the same practices will be seen in time.