A February 27 Guest Commentary Legal Pulse post, Healthy Judicial Skepticism in Class Action over “Anti-Poaching” Agreement Among Tech Titans, examined a private antitrust claim which arose from the settlement of a federal Justice Department investigation. DOJ had alleged that Google, Apple, Intuit, Lucasfilm, and Pixar had conspired to avoid “poaching” each other’s engineering employees. The agency and the companies settled the case with the companies admitting no wrongdoing, but also agreeing to be enjoined from any future parallel anti-poaching behavior.
Employees of the companies soon after filed the inevitable follow-on private antitrust claims in California state courts, all of which were consolidated and transferred to the federal Northern District of California. In a late January 2012 hearing on the defendants’ joint motion to dismiss, Judge Koh displayed significant skepticism towards the plaintiffs’ claims.
As sometimes happens, the tone and tenor of arguments in court did not reflect the defense motion’s ultimate outcome. On April 18, Judge Koh denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss on all claims other than those filed under California’s Unfair Competition Act. The plaintiffs’ Sherman and Cartwright Act claims will thus go forward to the discovery phase, unless the defendants decide to settle.