Secret Google-Apple No Poaching Agreement: Maybe Illegal, Definitely Wrong

A handshake in the shadows

So apparently, there’s an agreement between Apple and Google not to poach each other’s employees. We think the agreement is possibly illegal and definitely wrongheaded.

The NYT broke the news, after obtaining an email from a Google recruiter that suggest a certain job candidate might be off limits because the candidate was employed by Apple.

“It is a bit touchy since he works for Apple,” the recruiter, Laura Sheppard, wrote, noting that Google has “a nonsolicit agreement with them.”

Gary L. Reback, a lawyer at Carr & Ferrell, a firm that helped the Justice Department go after Microsoft in the 1990s says the agreement is only illegal if it’s actually an agreement between two companies and not just a company’s internal decision to avoid poaching a partner’s employees.

“It is not the off-limits part that I suspect they are looking into,” Gary told the Times “I suspect they think there is a quid pro quo of some kind. Antitrust counselors would advise clients not to do this kind of thing.”

The issue could be a problem for Google and Apple, since regulators are already investigating the companies for collusion.

Anyway, even if such agreement’s aren’t illegal, we still think they’re ridiculous and unhealthy for the industry.

  • They are unfair to employees, who aren’t working for charity and deserve to go to whoever wants to pay them.
  • If employees catch wind of them, they’re bad for morale, as who wants to work for a company that’s trying to limit your opportunities?
  • They’re bad for the economy as a whole because they keep wages lower than they should be and they keep employees from going to the highest bidder — where, on the aggregate, they’ll produce the most.


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