New Emails Show Steve Jobs Threatened Rivals To Enforce 'No-Hire' Policy

Steve Jobs emails lawsuit

SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple co-founder Steve Jobs threatened to file a patent lawsuit against Palm if that company's chief executive didn't agree to refrain from poaching Apple employees, according to a court filing made public on Tuesday.

The communication from Jobs surfaced in a civil lawsuit brought by five tech workers against Apple Inc., Google Inc., Intel Corp. and others, alleging an illegal conspiracy to eliminate competition for each other's employees and drive down wages.

The defendant tech companies have attempted to keep a range of documents secret. However, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, Calif., rejected parts of that request, which led to details of Jobs' 2007 communications with then-Palm chief executive Edward Colligan becoming part of the public record.

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Jobs proposed eliminating competition between the two companies for talent, according to a sworn statement from Colligan cited by the plaintiffs.

"Mr. Jobs also suggested that if Palm did not agree to such an arrangement, Palm could face lawsuits alleging infringement of Apple's many patents," Colligan said in the statement. (Read TechCrunch's take on the "no-hire" agreements here.)

Steve Jobs Palm email

An Apple representative could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday. A spokesman for Hewlett-Packard Co., which acquired Palm, also could not be reached.

Colligan told Jobs that the plan was "likely illegal," and that Palm was not "intimidated" by the threat.

"If you choose the litigation route, we can respond with our own claims based on patent assets, but I don't think litigation is the answer," he said.

In 2010, Google, Apple, Adobe Systems Inc., Intel, Intuit Inc. and Walt Disney Co.'s Pixar unit agreed to a settlement of a U.S. Justice Department probe that bars them from agreeing to refrain from poaching each other's employees. The Justice Department and California state antitrust regulators then sued eBay Inc. late last year over an alleged no-poaching deal with Intuit. In a separate court filing on Tuesday, eBay asked a U.S. judge to dismiss the government's lawsuits, saying the company had done nothing wrong.

More: A Year After Steve Jobs' Death: 8 Career Lessons

Antitrust law "does not exist to micromanage the interaction between the officers and directors of a public company," eBay said in its filing. A Justice Department spokesman could not immediately be reached.

Koh is currently mulling whether the civil lawsuit can proceed as a class action, which would give the plaintiffs more leverage to extract a large settlement. Plaintiff attorneys have estimated that damages potentially could run into hundreds of millions of dollars. At court hearing last week, Koh cited emails between top executives as key evidence for plaintiffs, though the judge also said plaintiffs' economic analysis had "holes."

The Tuesday court filings detail how Google developed its no-hire agreements. When Google's human resources director asked then-chief executive Eric Schmidt about sharing its no-cold call agreements with competitors, Schmidt -- now the company's executive chairman -- advised discretion.

"Schmidt responded that he preferred it be shared 'verbally, since I don't want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued later?' " he said, according to the court filing. The HR director agreed.

In an email on Tuesday, Google spokeswoman Niki Fenwick said Google has "always actively and aggressively recruited top talent." Schmidt is scheduled to be questioned by plaintiff lawyers next month.

The civil case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California is In Re: High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, 11-cv-2509.

Steve Jobs Google email


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57 Comments

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Howard Latchford

So these "tech-entrepreneurs" are exposed as the latter-day robber barons they are. Steve Jobs was already known as an a**hole. Now the rest of them can go into the same category.

January 27 2013 at 4:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rkeeeballs

...For all those that would put Mr. Jobs on a pedestal to be worshiped, I believe this genius had a dark side that was not too pretty !........Only a fraction of Apple jobs stayed in this country, Steve was not patriotic in any sense. More self serving than anything else. I admire his accomplishments more than I do the man.

January 27 2013 at 9:00 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
kacalder

Monopoly, abuse of the patent process and purpose, suppression and abuse of regulations, and all manner of other devices for stifling competition are a huge reason why laissez-faire capitalism does not work.

It is a letdown -- but no surprise, I guess -- to find that the worm is at the root of Jobs's enterprise as well.

January 24 2013 at 7:22 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
wagdag23

heard from 2 individuals that jobs was dominating, demanding and a user of people for his gain.
jobs was petulent and abusive and maniac driven to win and achieve at any cost. not a warm, considerate and nice guy. cold and achieve crazy.

January 24 2013 at 2:43 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Brian Workman

Apple is as transparent as our Government!?!?

January 24 2013 at 2:16 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
cwkpam

self centered? vain? how about ruthless thug? (albeit couched in pretty words)

January 24 2013 at 1:27 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
jneal11254

OK, the guy was a genius. He was also a self centered, vain creep. I recognize his contributions to technology, but he should not be given any honors for anything.

January 24 2013 at 12:38 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
trotinboot

I thought he was a liberial? once again a liberial shows that the rules they want it impose on everyone else don't apply to them.

January 24 2013 at 11:34 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to trotinboot's comment
sbethlarsen

"Covenants not to compete (generally known as noncompete agreements) are perfectly valid everywhere but California, where they have been outlawed. They are generally regulated, however, to make sure they are "reasonably limited to time and space," said Robert Scott, a professor at Columbia Law School and director of the Center on Contract and Economic Organization. That means employers can't keep you on the sidelines for 10 years or allow you to work only on the moon."

- CNET, http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-10097806-37.html

"The California law has been in existence since 1872, forbidding "noncompete clauses" that restrict management employees' options in their next job or business. But the law has been interpreted differently throughout the state, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has ruled in favor of allowing a company to limit their employees' future job choices, as long as it doesn't prevent them from working in the same field."

-CNET, http://news.cnet.com/8301-1001_3-10010724-92.html

"Repeat After Me: Competitors Cannot Agree Not to Hire Each Others Employees"

-Mass Law Blog, http://masslawblog.com/noncompete-agreements/

My comment:
It's a SHAME that only California has this law on the books. I hope their courts enforce it, and protect employees from this outrageous greed.

January 24 2013 at 11:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
boogiewiz

this is done ever day in different companies, why should this be any different, other than the amount of money being paid.

January 24 2013 at 11:26 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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