You've heard of the government's "Do Not Call" list aimed at shutting down unwanted telemarketers—but did you know that many tech companies have a "Do Not Cold Call" list aimed at shutting down competition? The US Department of Justice today announced a lawsuit—and a proposed settlement—over just such behavior at Google, Adobe, Apple, Intel, Intuit, and Pixar.
According to the complaint, these firms signed different deals with one another, but all had the same basic purpose: they prevented one company from "cold calling" employees at another company with a job offer. Here's how Google described its own practices today in a corporate blog post:
...we were also building partnerships with other technology companies to help improve our products and services. In order to maintain a good working relationship with these companies, in 2005 we decided not to "cold call" employees at a few of our partner companies. Our policy only impacted cold calling, and we continued to recruit from these companies through LinkedIn, job fairs, employee referrals, or when candidates approached Google directly. In fact, we hired hundreds of employees from the companies involved during this time period.
Sounds innocuous—Google just doesn't want to irritate its buddies!—but the government saw an anti-competitive cabal instead, one that "restrained competition for affected employees without any procompetitive justification and distorted the competitive process," according to Assistant Attorney General Molly Boast.
The Justice Department spent a year mapping out these relationships. Here's how it describes the resulting web of connections:
Beginning no later than 2006, Apple and Google executives agreed not to cold call each other’s employees. Apple placed Google on its internal “Do Not Call List,” which instructed employees not to directly solicit employees from the listed companies. Similarly, Google listed Apple among the companies that had special agreements with Google and were part of the “Do Not Cold Call” list;
Beginning no later than May 2005, senior Apple and Adobe executives agreed not to cold call each other’s employees. Apple placed Adobe on its internal “Do Not Call List” and similarly, Adobe included Apple in its internal list of “Companies that are off limits”;
Beginning no later than April 2007, Apple and Pixar executives agreed not to cold call each other’s employees. Apple placed Pixar on its internal “Do Not Call List” and senior executives at Pixar instructed human resources personnel to adhere to the agreement and maintain a paper trail;
Beginning no later than September 2007, Google and Intel executives agreed not to cold call each other’s employees. In its hiring policies and protocol manual, Google listed Intel among the companies that have special agreements with Google and are part of the “Do Not Cold Call” list. Similarly, Intel instructed its human resources staff about the existence of the agreement; and
In June 2007, Google and Intuit executives agreed that Google would not cold call any Intuit employee. In its hiring policies and protocol manual, Google also listed Intuit among the companies that have special agreements with Google and are part of the “Do Not Cold Call” list.
The companies involved have agreed to a five-year settlement that would prevent them from entering into any similar "no solicitation agreements." The Washington, DC federal court will now take a look at the settlement; if it signs off, the lawsuit will be over—and so will the "Do Not Cold Call" lists.
Source: ars technica