The Justice Department is already investigating possible collusion between Apple and Google in which the companies had secretly agreed not to poach each other’s employees.
Based on an article by Bloomberg’s Connie Gulielmo, it appears such deals may be standard operating procedure for Apple.
Bloomberg reviewed “communications” between Steve Jobs and then-Palm-CEO Ed Colligan from the summer of 2007 (presumably emails).
Two months after Palm poached iPod star Jon Rubinstein to remake Palm, Bloomberg says, Steve told Colligan that “We must do whatever we can to stop this.”
Steve then reportedly proposed a deal in which the companies not hire from one another–the same arrangement that Apple apparently had with Google. This proposal was not contained in the communications reviewed by Bloomberg, but Colligan’s response was:
“Your proposal that we agree that neither company will hire the other’s employees, regardless of the individual’s desires, is not only wrong, it is likely illegal,” Colligan said to Jobs, 54, according to the communications. Colligan said he thought about Jobs’s proposal and considered offering hiring concessions, before deciding against it, according to the exchanges.
Bloomberg says the communications show that during these discussions Steve also implicitly threatened to crush Palm with a legal attack.
Given the success Palm has had with the iPhone-like Pre, one can understand why Steve would not want Palm poaching any more of his team. In the communications between the CEOs, however, Colligan noted that Apple had already hired 2% of Palm’s workforce to help build the iPhone. So it seems that Steve’s distaste for poaching only developed when the talent started flowing the other way.
As we noted when the DOJ opened the Apple-Google investigation, such secret deals are probably illegal and definitely wrongheaded. The Palm communications will be more fodder for the DOJ to investigate.
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