Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Judge Lucy Koh Questions Tech Class Settlement

Major technology companies recently agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit in which 64,000 employees accused them of conspiring not to recruit each other's workers, suppressing compensation. The case alleged an inner circle of Silicon Valley executives communicated during a period when the interoperability of companies' products was often discussed. Embarrassing emails between company executives surfacing during E-discovery played a role in the settlement, with four tech companies agreeing to pay plaintiffs $324.5 million. Plaintiffs had planned to ask for about $3 billion in damages at trial, which could have been trebled under antitrust law. Last week, Judge Koh told plaintiffs during a hearing that they had leverage going into trial against the defendants, given the strength of emails showing former CEOs, such as Apple's Steve Jobs and Google's Eric Schmidt, were planning to enforce their no-poaching agreement. Reportedly, Judge Koh had concerns about whether the amount is really fair to the class and deferred a decision about whether to approve the deal. Though Plaintiffs' attorney said the workers faced serious risks on appeal all the way up, Judge Koh was skeptical the Supreme Court would get involved by further restricting class actions. She has previously approved separate settlements totaling $20 million reached by Disney's Lucasfilm and Pixar units, and Intuit. Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe are paying a higher premium to settle this case than Disney and Intuit did, as calculated by the number of employees from each company in the class. Avoiding executives appearing on the witness stand made a settlement attractive. The civil case followed a 2010 Justice Department case on the same matter. Trial was set to begin last month in California. See story here-- http://reut.rs/1q5cB3Y