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Google, Apple Settle Justice Dept. Hiring Probe 73

Posted by timothy
from the now-they-won't-hire-from-doj-either dept.
Ponca City, We Love You writes "The LA Times reports that under a proposed settlement with the Justice Department, six major Silicon Valley firms — Google, Apple, Intel, Adobe, Intuit and Pixar — would be barred from pledging not to 'cold call' one another's employees. Federal officials have been scrutinizing such agreements for more than a year, concerned that they restrained competition for skilled workers and kept an artificial cap on wages by avoiding expensive bidding wars. If the court fight had proceeded, it could have helped decide the legality of such accords, not just in the high-tech sector but across all industries. But the fight had risks for each side. To win, the Justice Department would have had to convince a court that workers had suffered significant harm. A loss for the companies would have opened the door to a rush of lawsuits."
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Google, Apple Settle Justice Dept. Hiring Probe

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  • Do no Evil? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mfh (56) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @01:26PM (#33697566) Journal

    Google is probably in the worst position for this to come out because it's yet another example of how bad that company has become.

    Does anyone have a good suggestion for an email provider and a search engine now?

    It's like Google has become what Yahoo was back in the day.

    • Re:Do no Evil? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 25, 2010 @01:34PM (#33697610)

      I work for Google.

      In what way is this bad? I haven't understood exactly what all this hulabaloo has been about? I see people both leaving to and arriving from some of those companies quite often.

      So, what's the ruckus about?

      • Re:Do no Evil? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 25, 2010 @01:52PM (#33697696)

        Federal officials have been scrutinizing such agreements for more than a year, concerned that they restrained competition for skilled workers and kept an artificial cap on wages by avoiding expensive bidding wars. For example, Apple placed Google on its "do not call" list, which instructed employees not to directly cold-call Google's employees. Similarly, Google listed Apple among the companies with which it had special agreements not to solicit, the Justice Department said. These agreements were "actively managed" by senior executives, it added.

        Cartel: A group of businesses or nations that collude to limit competition within an industry or market;

        This is collusion to artificially reduce demand for Skilled Labor in these sectors therefore suppressing the wages of said Skilled Labor, also, take note it's just cold calling which still means the scenario you put forth can still occur but stopping cold calling is still artificially reducing demand which is made worse when the companies are often competitors in different sectors.

        • by wrook (134116)

          It might be just me, but who the hell does cold calling anyway. When I worked in high tech I always thought it was a rather impolite thing to do. If one of my friends was unhappy with their job I would never be shy to tell them to send a resume. But I would never randomly phone up people in another company and try to lure them to mine. In fact, I would consider that anyone who would accept such an offer to be somewhat suspect. It's not like these companies are unknown. Anyone wanting to work for these

          • It isn't just the key members, either. The biggest star player doesn't play alone. Cold calling can be used to break up a winning team. Joe may be a good solid worker, and everyone relies on him, but he doesn't have the something extra to become a "key member". Hire him away, all the same, and you weaken the team that relies on him. You might even cripple it, if the high profile stars are lacking some quality that Joe has.
          • >>>I have a very hard time seeing this as something that will actually affect labor prices in any great way

            It's competition.

            Supply and demand. The end. If Microsoft, Google, Apple, et cetera had to compete with one another for "human resources", that is increased demand and the pricetags on the employees would go up. By creating a gentleman's agreement Not to compete one another, they eliminate the demand and avoid that escalating cost. Great for them. Sucks for the employees.

        • by kalirion (728907)

          Isn't "cold calling" basically telephone spam? Why should it be allowed?

      • by iamhassi (659463)
        "I work for Google."

        Enjoy being stalked by Apple, Intel, Adobe, Intuit and Pixar then. Next time you get one of those robotic telemarketer calls you might actually want to hear what they have to say because it's probably a job offer.
        • by arivanov (12034)

          Just ignore him. The almighty algorithm is not flagging him as a "risk to leave" yet: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124269038041932531.html [wsj.com]
          Not joking, here is a quote from Google VP of HR: "[Our human resources algorithm helps Google] get inside people's heads even before they know they might leave,"
          In any case, algorithms work on data and the level of spying on your own employees to have the data to back the above claim frankly scares the living world out of me. Do no evil? Some other time...

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It probably has something to do with the fact that your paychecks are probably half the size of mine, regardless of the fact that you probably have a better skillset. Google employees are seriously underpaid for what they do, and agreements like this between companies help make that possible.

        • by mfh (56)

          It probably has something to do with the fact that your paychecks are probably half the size of mine, regardless of the fact that you probably have a better skillset. Google employees are seriously underpaid for what they do, and agreements like this between companies help make that possible.

          Well stated. This is evidence that some evil has infiltrated Google's upper echelon. The fact Google stopped out of self interest, has little to do with it. They are bad now.

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It probably has something to do with the fact that your paychecks are probably half the size of mine, regardless of the fact that you probably have a better skillset.

          So, as long as we are posting as anon, we can easily compare this with some glassdoor links. Here's Google's: http://www.glassdoor.com/Salary/Google-Salaries-E9079.htm [glassdoor.com] So what company do you work for that pays an out of college grad 200K/yr + bonus, and can I get their number?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Runaway1956 (1322357)
        Simple. It's an artificial cap on wages. It limits a prospective employee's bargaining power. In a "free market" this wouldn't happen. If you don't understand what "free market" is all about, you should research the concept. The fact is, we don't have a free market. Like democracy, we give some lip service to it - but we don't have it.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Oh give me a break, there is absolutely no "evil" here.

      Basically, there were a few companies that were closely partnered together on various things. To maintain good relations, they basically said "hey, don't go out of your way to try and steal our employees" to each other. The employees were ALWAYS free to go to another of the companies, they just didn't want the recruiting departments actively trying to poach.

      The only way this is "evil" is if you're specifically trying to find fault with Google and graspi

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by The Hatchet (1766306)

        It is absolutely evil, and I am typically one to defend google. Lowering peoples wages on purpose, making their lives harder, and concentrating money at the top of the company and the top of society is a load of bullshit and is terrible for society. Headhunting increases the amount companies need to pay their employees to get them to stay, and to make sure rival offers don't steal employees. It is exactly what needs to be happening all the time in every industry to stop this 2/3 jobs and still poor bullshit

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by iamhassi (659463)
      "Google is probably in the worst position for this to come out because it's yet another example of how bad that company has become."

      How bad? Pledging not to cold call is a bad thing?

      Last slashdot story made it sound like they were flat out refusing to hire each other's employees, [slashdot.org] now it comes out that they were agreeing not to stalk each other's employees. While sure the employees are still probably losing something here it's clear they're not losing much at all, I can see now that every Google, App
      • by russotto (537200)

        While sure the employees are still probably losing something here it's clear they're not losing much at all, I can see now that every Google, Apple, Intel, Adobe, Intuit and Pixar employee is going to be making $200k+ because they're going to just keep stealing each other's employees instead of finding talent from the rest of the world so really this hurts everyone looking for a job right now and the only people that win are those already working for Google, Apple, Intel, Adobe, Intuit and Pixar.

        Not a prob

        • by iamhassi (659463)
          "Not a problem. Just mention on your LinkedIn/Facebook/whatever profile that you work for one of those companies. "

          You're an Evil genius ;) you must work for
      • by mfh (56)

        How bad? Pledging not to cold call is a bad thing?

        Don't deliberately try to misunderstand me. I said that Google has lost its way. I just found out that they were phoning competitors and poaching. Now that they agreed not to do it is too little, too late for me. The fact they were doing it to begin with I take issue with.

    • by selven (1556643)

      Search Engine: Ixquick [ixquick.com]
      Email provider: Your own email server. Sorry, I would recommend something simpler, but every third party is guaranteed to become corrupted over time.

    • I've yet to see this. I don't see Google ads on every email sent from a google account, nor do I see lots of confusing non-answers on a search. The ones that are ads are clearly marked and are, _sometimes_, actually helpful. When they aren't, they aren't sufficiently distracting to keep me from finding what I need quickly and efficiently.

      So from my perspective as a user of their search and a receiver of email sent from google accounts, I'd have to disagree. I don't send or read mail using a google accou

  • This does not restrict any employee of these companies from shopping their skills to the others.

    FTFA:Further, some companies said that although they had agreements not to cold-call partners' employees, they never agreed not to hire one another's employees. Google said it had hired hundreds of employees from companies with which it collaborated, through job fairs, employee referrals and other means.

    Cartelized monopolies (or monopsonies, in this case) are hard to maintain.
  • I don't doubt the need for such anti-trust regulations, but it just seems such an uphill battle, the investigation, lengthy court battle, etc. I wonder if there is a better structural solution.
  • by ThisIsForReal (897233) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @01:48PM (#33697676) Homepage
    How dumb was this ill-conceived and poorly executed conspiracy? Let us count the ways.

    1. There is no way that potential savings from these ridiculous schemes could have warranted the risks. Just how much money are we talking about saving by not losing a few important employees? Thousands? Chump change. Dumb.

    2. Whatever the costs, we're talking about multinational corporations with billions of dollars in the bank. Really, they couldn't dip into those rainy day funds to counter a few offers? It's not just miserly. It's dumb.

    3. We knew Apple was a bully. Turns out, it is an even bigger bully than we realized. According to the complaint: "Apple requested an agreement from Adobe to refrain from cold-calling each other's employees. Faced with the likelihood that refusing would result in retaliation and significant competition for its employees, Adobe agreed." Pissing off a key ally? Dumb.

    4. Now, everyone working at one of these companies has got to be thinking the same thing: "Did I get screwed?" That's not exactly the kind of gung-ho, morale-building conversations you want going on. Dumb.

    5. Those who do think they got the shaft may sue. And because this is an antitrust finding, the settlement will allow anyone who wins in federal court to "recover three times the damages the person has suffered." Say goodbye to whatever measly amounts the companies saved through these agreements. Dumb.

    6. People maintained lists. They kept records. According to the complaint: "Pixar instructed human resources personnel to adhere to the agreement and maintain a paper trail in the event Apple accused Pixar of violating the agreement." Dumb.

    7. Under this settlement, the Justice Department gets to check up on the companies just about whenever it pleases. Thought the federal government was interfering too much before? Well, congratulations. It will get worse. Dumb.

    8. Did they really not think this would come to light? Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

    Original Source [mercurynews.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by russotto (537200)

      6. People maintained lists. They kept records. According to the complaint: "Pixar instructed human resources personnel to adhere to the agreement and maintain a paper trail in the event Apple accused Pixar of violating the agreement." Dumb.

      8. Did they really not think this would come to light? Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

      These are only dumb if the companies involved thought they were doing something illegal.

    • by iamhassi (659463) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @02:22PM (#33697802) Journal
      "5. Those who do think they got the shaft may sue. And because this is an antitrust finding, the settlement will allow anyone who wins in federal court to "recover three times the damages the person has suffered." Say goodbye to whatever measly amounts the companies saved through these agreements. Dumb."

      I don't think you read the article. No one got "shafted", they had "special agreements not to solicit" and "instructed employees not to directly cold-call Google's employees." This has nothing to do with employees who applied and were turned away like the previous article suggested [slashdot.org], they simply agreed not to stalk and actively harass each other's employees attempting to steal them.

      Imagine you were dating a woman... I know, /., it's a stretch, but pretend... actually, let's say you were dating a Elven Princess [wordpress.com] on WoW, that's closer to probably closer to reality. Your buddy is dating a... um... Elven Sorceress (sure why not). Your buddy starts harassing your princess trying to get her to be with him. You tell your buddy to lay off or you're going to go after his sorceress. You both agree not to harass each other's WoW girlfriends. That's what happened here, they agreed not to harass each other's employees. That's probably a good thing, both for your WoW dates and for you and your buddy. Course now the WoW masters said you're not allowed to do that, so if you want to harass each other's dates or anyone else you're permitted. See how the DOJ just mucked this all up?
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Your analogy is just terrible. Personal relationships and business relationships are two different things. This isn't about 4 people, this is about thousands, and you know what? None of the employees were asked their opinion.

        Sorry, but you didn't illustrate the problem, you illustrated your ignorance of it.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Entering into a conspiracy that limits financial opportunities for employees should be more than a civil violation. It should involve criminal penalties. I've seen this done by an industrial district that supposedly, for the good of the community, entered into a restrained pay agreement that used the excuse that new businesses would be attracted to the community by wage restraints. Obviously the public could benefit even more if they had profit restraints in place upon the businesses but businesses s

    • by rebot777 (765163)
      Your post seems to be making the point that this was conceived as a cost saving endeavor. I highly doubt apple or the other companies involved were concerned about having to pay the market price for their employees, I'd bet they're well compensated.

      It seems more likely that this was much more about not losing key members of their team with valuable training, trade secrets, and project time invested. In such a time sensitive and competitive market losing a team lead could seriously sabotage an important p
    • 1. There is no way that potential savings from these ridiculous schemes could have warranted the risks. Just how much money are we talking about saving by not losing a few important employees? Thousands? Chump change. Dumb.

      Maybe savings had nothing to do with pure salary costs. The knowledge and time lost when important employees can hurt a company like a key developer.

      2. Whatever the costs, we're talking about multinational corporations with billions of dollars in the bank. Really, they couldn't dip into those rainy day funds to counter a few offers? It's not just miserly. It's dumb.

      The agreement was not to "cold-call" each other's employees. The agreement was not to prevent the hiring of each other's employees. As a company would you like your workers to be cold-called at work with potential job offers (some of which will probably not match your skills as it is a cold call) or would you like not to get what some might consider spam. E

    • Mostly good points. The major exception is this:

      3. We knew Apple was a bully. Turns out, it is an even bigger bully than we realized. According to the complaint: "Apple requested an agreement from Adobe to refrain from cold-calling each other's employees. Faced with the likelihood that refusing would result in retaliation and significant competition for its employees, Adobe agreed." Pissing off a key ally? Dumb.

      Adobe is not a key Apple ally. Apple has been trying to damage Adobe across a number of fronts with increasing intensity for a couple of decades now, beginning with a partnership with Microsoft to undercut Postscript fonts with TrueType and leading to the current broad effort to kill Flash. Adobe, for its part, is not in any hurry to lose its dominance in graphics software on the Mac platform, but it's been quite a long time since the Mac version of anything i

  • To win, the Justice Department would have had to convince a court that workers had suffered significant harm. A loss for the companies would have opened the door to a rush of lawsuits."

    Seems to me that the court case would have been the most desired outcome. Either workers have a case for being screwed over, or the Justice Department would have had to learn how to build a stronger case. Personally I think that the Justice Department would have won since everyone working at those companies knows not to recru

  • by theodp (442580) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @02:13PM (#33697778)

    June 6, 2007 Congressional Testimony of Laszlo Bock [blogspot.com]: "Google's hiring process is rigorous, and we make great efforts to uncover the most talented employees we can find."

    September 24, 2010 Justice Department Press Release [justice.gov]: "Beginning no later than 2006, Apple and Google executives agreed not to cold call each other's employees...Beginning no later than September 2007, Google and Intel executives agreed not to cold call each other's employees...In June 2007, Google and Intuit executives agreed that Google would not cold call any Intuit employee."

  • Cold Call (Score:5, Funny)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday September 25, 2010 @02:17PM (#33697788) Journal
    I really hate these articles because they make me feel like an incompetent programmer. I have never had a cold call from any of these companies. They really do that?? What am I doing wrong???
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by DMiax (915735)

      I really hate these articles because they make me feel like an incompetent programmer. I have never had a cold call from any of these companies. They really do that?? What am I doing wrong???

      Reading Slashdot too much? Just guessing: I was never called either.

    • by gr8_phk (621180)
      A cold call could be when your ex-coworker calls you up to tell you they're hiring at his new place (we have done this). If you happen to have a special skill, this can definitely happen. What's worse than cold calling is what I ran into recently - I had started a dialog with someone at a company only to be shut down because "I just learned that we are not allowed to hire anyone from your company". *I made the first contact* so it's not even a cold call from them. This is happening with big companies in Det
      • Wow, you should report that one to the FCC, because that's evidence of real damage right there. At least these guys still allowed each other to keep up the process if someone else made first contact. Although stories like this could be why all the big companies in Detroit are disappearing.....
    • by mfh (56)

      What am I doing wrong???

      I'll explain. The reason they would cold call is so they can get inside information. You don't hire directly from a competitor without expecting to get an advantage for doing so. The agreement was to also prevent bidding wars that could cost the companies money but it put an artificial freeze on wages. It's evil.

      To answer your question: either you're not working at a company any of them hate or are interested in, or a few of your fellow employees already took the calls.

      • by Compaqt (1758360)

        I think expecting to get inside information is unethical and possibly illegal depending on non-disclosure agreements. It's really sleazy to either ask about or disclose information about pre-released products.

        I think you're right that these agreements dampened the market for these employees. Otherwise, these companies may have needed to pay more in bonuses (stay for 2 years, get $50k).

    • by greg_barton (5551)

      Yes, they really do cold call. I got one from Google a few years ago. I wouldn't care to repeat the experience, and I'm not just saying that because they didn't hire me. :) Between the time I scheduled my first phone technical interview and the interview date an old friend of mine committed suicide. I asked them to reschedule and they refused. I did the interview about an hour after getting off the plane from the funeral. Needless to say I didn't do well. It was a blessing in disguise, though. Had I

  • This must be a new meaning of the word "settlement". In the past, I thought it meant settling with the victims of an act, not with some third party. It doesn't seem like a settlement if there is nothing in it for the victims other than a promise not do it (openly, at least) for the next five years. I would just call this an "agreement". In particular, is the DOJ releasing the information they collected, so that potential victims could use it to file suit?

  • I can't believe large companies would even have to bother with a cold calling strategy. Once you've been in tech a few years (at least this is my experience), hiring of good people mostly happens through word-of-mouth.

    I've only gotten cold calls from the most rinky-dink companies.

    Companies like Apple, Google, etc. probably already have a good bit of cross-pollination. I just can't see them saying "OK, rev up the phone banks".

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