Last month, four major tech companies including Apple and Google settled an antitrust lawsuit regarding non-poaching agreements in Silicon Valley, paying $US324 million.
One of the named plaintiffs in the class-action suit, however, thinks that these companies are getting off too lightly.
Michael Devine, a 46-year-old freelance programmer, put the $US324 million in perspective, writing that the settlement amount was about one-tenth of the $US3 billion lost in compensation among the 64,000 workers involved in the case.
Devine sent a letter to the judge handling the case, Lucy H. Koh of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, opposing the settlement. In the letter, which was first picked up by The New York Times, he cited the following analogy to illustrate the situation:
As an analogy, if a shoplifter is caught on video stealing a $US400 iPad from the Apple Store,would a fair and just resolution be for the shoplifter to pay Apple $US40, keep the iPad, and walk away with no record or admission of wrongdoing? Of course not, nor is such a resolution appropriate in our case.
The settlement comes about three years after tech workers filed a class action lawsuit against Apple, Google, Adobe and Intel in 2011, claiming that participated in agreements not to hire each others’ employees. The agreement was said to be lead by former Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
Devine has created a blog dedicated to voicing his cause in convincing Koh to reject the settlement. He’s currently seeking representation and is trying to persuade other tech workers involved in the suit to support his efforts.
In the letter to Koh, Devine asks that the settlement be turned down so that the wronged parties “may have our day in court and have a real shot at justice.”
Here’s the full letter from Devine’s blog:
May 11, 2014 The Honorable Lucy H. Koh United States District Court for the Northern District of California 280 South First Street, #4050, Courtroom 8 — 4 th Floor San Jose, CA 95113
Re: In re High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation 11-CV-2509-LHK (N.D. Cal.)
I am a Class Representative in this case, and in that role I am writing to inform the Court that I feel the tentative settlement agreement reached between Defendants’ and Plaintiffs’ counsel, of which the Court was notified in Docket #900, and which was correctly reported in the press as being in the amount of $US324 million, is grossly inadequate and fails to achieve justice for the Class. Therefore I respectfully ask that the Court reject it as unfair and unjust. The Class wants a chance at real justice. We want our day in court.
The evidence of the Defendants’ illegal conspiracy, and its intended impact, is very strong. In fact, the Defendants’ own actions reveal their valuation of the conspiracy. Just look at Google which, when Facebook rejected their illegal overture, felt compelled to raise annual compensation 10% company wide to stem the flow of employees to Facebook. This settlement, in contrast, will amount to less than 1% of compensation for each class member over the duration of the illegal agreements. That’s one tenth of the experts’ estimates of damages and is lacking in any penalty. There’s no justice for the Class in that, nor is there any real deterrent to future wrongdoing. We want a chance at achieving real justice.
As an analogy, if a shoplifter is caught on video stealing a $US400 iPad from the Apple Store, would a fair and just resolution be for the shoplifter to pay Apple $US40, keep the iPad, and walk away with no record or admission of wrongdoing? Of course not, nor is such a resolution appropriate in our case. Perhaps, though, the prevalence of corporate crime is in part due to the absence of real justice for the victims in the courtroom? Why, with such uniquely compelling evidence in hand, would we short circuit this case? Please, Your Honour, allow us our day in court.
I also wish to inform the Court that I was not informed that the most recent round of mediation that lead to the tentative settlement was even taking place until the day after Plaintiffs’ and Defendants’ counsel had already reached an agreement. I should have been notified of this mediation so that I could substantively participate and fulfil my duties as Class Representative.
Nonetheless, after learning of this settlement, I informed Plaintiffs’ counsel in writing that I found it inadequate and that I intended, on behalf of the Class, to oppose it. Despite this, Plaintiffs’ counsel proceeded with informing the Court that a settlement agreement had been reached and thus litigation was halted. Is the role of Class Representative a mere formality absent substance? Does this case belong to the Plaintiffs’ counsel rather than the Class? No and no. This case belongs to the Class and we wish to proceed with the litigation.
The tentative settlement, if it stands, amounts to big profits for Plaintiffs’ counsel, insulation from real liability for the Defendants, and locks in a significant net loss for the Class. Therefore, on behalf of the Class, I respectfully ask that you reject this settlement so that we may have our day in court and a have real shot at justice.
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