Tech giants increase offer to $415 million to settle no-poaching case

The judge will decide during a March hearing whether to approve the settlement

Hoping to avoid a potentially embarrassing trial, Google, Apple, Intel and Adobe have increased their offer to $415 million [m] to settle a lawsuit that accuses them of cutting secret deals not to hire each other's workers.

The offer comes after Judge Lucy Koh, of the District Court in San Jose, California, rejected a previous settlement offer of $324.5 million as being too low.

The "no-hire" agreements allegedly drove down wages for engineers and other tech workers and restricted their ability to move between jobs. Some 64,000 workers are represented in the class action suit.

"Plaintiffs and settling defendants reached the settlement through hard-fought, arm's-length negotiations after more than three years of litigation," lawyers wrote in court documents filed Thursday.

The case has enthralled Silicon Valley, in part because it shone an embarrassing light on an alleged conspiracy between some of its wealthiest firms, with deposition testimony taken from Eric Schmidt, Sergey Brin and other top executives. Judge Koh has said the late Steve Jobs was likely a central figure, if not "the" central figure, in the case.

It was reported earlier this week that the companies reached an agreement with plaintiffs, but the settlement figure at that time was not known.

A hearing is set for March 19 where Judge Koh will decide whether to approve the deal. At a previous hearing, she suggested the plaintiffs' attorneys were taking the easy way out to avoid risking a loss at trial.

Over 50 gigabytes of data have been produced by the companies as part of the case. Some of those files include emails sent between Jobs and other Silicon Valley executives.

"We deny the allegations contained in the suit and we deny that we violated any laws or that we have any obligation to the plaintiff," a spokesman for Intel said on Thursday, via email. "We elected to settle the matter in order to avoid the risk, burdens and uncertainty of ongoing litigation," he said.

Representatives for Apple and Google declined to comment, and Adobe did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Of the $415 million settlement, the attorneys could take home up to $83 million in fees.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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