Google, Apple $415M deal with tech workers heads for approval

Judge Lucy H. Koh had earlier rejected a $324.5 million settlement as too low

A proposed US$415 million settlement between tech workers and Intel, Google, Apple and Adobe Systems is likely to be approved by the judge, according to some of the lawyers in the case.

District Judge Lucy H. Koh in California last year rejected a proposed settlement of US$324.5 million, which she found was too low. The companies are accused of conspiring to prevent the poaching of each other's employees.

The court indicated the judge would approve the new settlement and the official order should be out tomorrow, said one lawyer, after the hearing Monday, on condition of anonymity. A notice will go to class members, and a final approval hearing will be held on July 9, another lawyer said.

The hearing Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose division, was for a preliminary approval. On the court docket online, it is stated that an order regarding the day's proceedings will be filed.

The tech workers, who filed the suit, alleged that Google, Apple, Intel, Adobe, Intuit, Lucasfilm and Pixar had engaged in an "overarching conspiracy" to fix and suppress employee compensation and to restrict employee mobility. The companies put each other's employees off-limits to the other companies by introducing measures such as "do-not-cold-call" lists, according to the workers' complaint.

Intuit, Lucasfilm and Pixar previously settled with the workers for about $20 million.

The companies settled in 2010 another antitrust case on similar allegations with the U.S. Department of Justice, without admitting wrongdoing. The tech workers said that settlement did not compensate them and filed the suit. About 64,000 workers are represented in the class action.

The case put some of the wealthiest companies and their executives, including the late Steve Jobs, former Apple CEO, under the spotlight.

There could be some last-minute wrinkles in the new settlement. Michael Devine, a former Adobe engineer, who had opposed the $324.5 million settlement, wants his payout from the new settlement to be doubled for his efforts in getting the proposed settlement amount increased. That would give Devine $160,000, if approved, and will be twice the payout for the other four named plaintiffs.

On Monday, the court docket entered opposition to the settlement by a class member who demanded a trial.  "I believe this proposal still grossly falls short of the potential lost wages over the period of time in question for the average professional employed in these companies," Michael Gambuzza wrote in a letter to the judge.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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