updated 08:43 pm EDT, Wed September 3, 2014
Judge rejects first attempt, suggests slightly higher amount would be 'fair share'
The remaining four tech firms involved in a California lawsuit stemming from a "gentlemen's agreement" to stop poaching each other's employees have headed back to the bargaining table to hammer out another settlement after the first attempt was rejected by the judge in the case. Apple, Google, Adobe and Intel have resumed settlement talks with plaintiffs representing thousands of employees who say the cooperation limited their job opportunities and illegally suppressed wages.
US District Court Judge Lucy Koh rejected the initial settlement offer from the four of $324.5 million, saying it was too low and suggesting a number closer to $380 million. Though the companies have protested that no wage-suppression or advancement-denying intentions were part of the agreement, Judge Koh has indicated that both the original agreement and the possibly-unintended side effects were probably illegal under California law, saying the plaintiffs were likely to prevail in their case.
The employees in the class had already agreed to the $324.5 million settlement, but Koh's required assent was withheld. Koh did, however, approve separate settlements of around $20 million from Pixar, Lucasfilm and Intuit, who were also parties to the original agreements.
The four companies will again try to have a deal in place by September 10, the date of the next hearing. If the case goes to trial, the companies could end up on the hook for up to $9 billion: the plaintiffs originally asked for punitive damages of up to $3 billion, which could be tripled under federal racketeering statues.