Is Apple recruiting or poaching?

The news is full of “Apple poaching engineers…” headlines, the latest victim that made the news is the electric motorcycle start-up Mission Motors. The company has filed for bankruptcy and its former CEO Derek Kaufman believes Apple’s “aggressive recruitment” is to blame.

“Mission had a great group of engineers, specifically electric drive expertise, Apple knew that — they wanted it, and they went and got it.”

 This is not the first time that the Cupertino company has been accused of poaching, electric-car battery maker A123 Systems had sued Apple for poaching its engineers, the lawsuit alleged that since around June 2014, Apple had been luring away engineers responsible for some of the battery maker’s most important projects. According to the lawsuit, the move to Apple broke employee agreements with A123. A settlement was agreed and A123 is now owned by China’s Wanxiang Group.

 Skilled engineers are hard to find, tech companies know that losing talented employees could doom their projects, as in the case of Mission Motors. To protect themselves from talent-poaching, tech giants have apparently agreed to a kind of nonaggression pact. A lawsuit filed by an ex-employee, accused Apple, Google, Adobe and Intel of agreeing to keep wages low by not hiring each other’s workers between 2005 and 2009. The companies offered $415 million to settle the case, denying any wrongdoing.

 “We deny the allegations contained in the suit and we deny that we violated any laws or that we have any obligation to the plaintiff,” Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said in an emailed statement. “We elected to settle the matter in order to avoid the risk, burdens and uncertainty of ongoing litigation.”

 Apparently not everyone is admitted in this exclusive club, with the competition’s employees being unprotected game, the big guys can hunt on their premises as they wish. Tesla CEO Elon Musk told Bloomberg that Apple has been offering a $250,000 signing bonus plus a 60 percent raise to entice his engineers to come work for Apple instead.

 There are not many laws in the US regulating employee recruitment (except for discrimination), but when it is openly referred to as talent poaching then it is, as the word implies, illegally hunting on land that is not one’s own. Many may argue that it is a free land but if every startup with an innovative idea or product gets sucked dry by the big players with big money, then we are being deprived of the freedom of choice.