updated 06:55 pm EST, Fri January 27, 2012
Disclosed as part of 'no poaching' civil case
An unredacted letter from Steve Jobs to Google head Eric Schmidt in March of 2007 reveals that Google was attempting to recruit an Apple engineer, which resulted in swift repercussions after Schmidt was notified. The letter is part of a court case that alleges that informal "no poaching" agreements between Apple, Google and five other tech companies amounted to a conspiracy to limit opportunities and keep compensation low.
The agreements, which appear to have been in place for years until a 2009 Justice Department probe won a settlement against Google, Apple, Pixar, Adobe, Intel, and Intuit forcing them to annul their anti-poaching arrangements, were likely originally created to avoid excess antagonism or as goodwill gestures. The current civil suit, brought by five software engineers and expanded to also involve Lucasfilm, alleges it had the practical effect of limiting employee freedom to change companies, stifling competition for skilled labor and keeping compensation offers lower than they would have been in an open market.
According to a Reuters report, in March 2007, Schmidt (who was on Apple's board at the time) received an e-mail from Jobs complaining about an attempt by a Google employee to recruit an Apple engineer. "I would be very pleased if your recruiting department would stop doing this," Jobs wrote. Schmidt appeared to be displeased at the news, forwarding the e-mail to others and asking "can you get this stopped and let me know why this is happening?"
Google's staffing director responded back to Schmidt, saying the employee who contacted the Apple engineer "will be terminated within the hour." He added "please extend my apologies as appropriate to Steve Jobs."
US District Judge Lucy Koh recently ruled against the tech firms' request for dismissal, allowing the civil case to proceed. The case may eventually be split into multiple class-action suits if other high-tech workers join the case.