Tech firms near deal with DoJ over staff poaching

With the Justice Department investigating the affair, some of the US’ largest tech companies are said to be close to settling allegations that they conspired to keep wages artificially low.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple, Intel, Google, Intuit and Pixar hope to avoid a costly and embarassing courtroom battle through the settlement.

An adverse judgement could also leave the companies open to individual lawsuits from employees, or even class actions.Microsoft, IBM and Yahoo have already been investigated and cleared by the investigation, which started last June.

At issue is the practice of signing non-poaching agreements, which the DoJ says can harm workers by limiting their ability to find a better job or higher pay. It’s also potentially an anti-trust issue, in the same way as price-fixing.

The companies using such agreements say they’re vital to stop competitors luring away staff with inside knowledge, and also make it easier for companies to collaborate on product development – and all this is for the good of consumers, they say.

But the DoJ appears to believe that some companies have gone further than is reasonable with such agreements. The WSJ reports that it has already decided not to go after firms that have legitimate reasons for anti-poaching deals – implying that the companies which remain on the list may not.