Google and Apple — and dozens of other tech companies — had explicit agreements not to hire or recruit each other’s employees, according to newly unveiled emails from Google chairman Eric Schmidt and founder Sergey Brin, published by Pando’s Mark Ames.
We’ve got a selection of the juiciest emails below.
The fact that Google and Apple allegedly had illegal agreements to hold down salaries by agreeing not to compete for each other’s staff is old news. The companies settled a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the issue back in 2010, and civil class action litigation is ongoing in federal court.
What’s new here is the appearance of even more emails from Schmidt and Brin (and a bunch of others) which clearly show an overt, official policy of trying to rig the employment market in tech. Apple founder Steve Jobs called Brin on the phone to enforce the agreement — and Brin went right along with it, his email says. Google has previously insisted that it aggressively pursues talent. Apple has mostly declined comment on the debate. Google did not immediately respond to our request for comment.
These emails will make you angry if you believe that companies ought to compete instead of fix prices. They will make you even angrier if you believe that workers have the right to sell their labour at the maximum price the market will bear — because Jobs, Schmidt and Brin appear to have spent years instructing their recruiters and HR staff to avoid hiring staff from each others’ companies, according to Pando:
… what began as a secret cartel agreement between Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Eric Schmidt to illegally fix the labour market for hi-tech workers, expanded within a few years to include companies ranging from Dell, IBM, eBay and Microsoft, to Comcast, Clear Channel, Dreamworks, and London-based public relations behemoth WPP. All told, the combined workforces of the companies involved totals well over a million employees.
Here are some examples.
Steve Jobs calls Sergey Brin, angry that Google is trying to recruit the team working on Apple’s Safari browser. Brin appears to not know what the nature of the agreement is between the two companies.
A couple of days later, Brin gets another angry call from Jobs, and this time Brin instructs his staff to stop recruiting from Apple.
U.S. Federal Court
This memo from Apple shows the company had the same agreement to not recruit from Google.
The non-compete agreement went far beyond Apple and Google. Here, Schmidt relates a phone call he had with eBay CEO Meg Whitman and then orders his own recruiter to be fired because that person tried to poach the COO of eBay.
In this email, Schmidt appears to admit Google might be sued over the policy.
U.S. Department of Justice
Just in case there is any confusion as to the context of the emails, here is Google’s official policy on recruiting from other companies:
This memo is merely the first page of a stack in which dozens of other companies are named in terms of Google’s “restricted” hiring policies. You can see the full collection over at Pando.