eBay joins Apple, Google and Intel in settling anti-hiring cases

EBay, one of the Web's biggest e-commerce companies, settled a pair of government lawsuits Thursday alleging that it attempted to prevent its employees from being recruited by competitors.

The company said it had settled one of the suits, which was brought by the California attorney general, for $3.75 million. Terms for the other suit, brought by the Justice Department, were not disclosed.

It's the latest settlement in a string of similar cases. Last week, Apple, Google, Adobe and Intel settled a class-action suit over wage collusion for a reported $324 million. That was preceded by settlements last year involving Lucasfilm, Pixar and Intuit.

In 2012, DOJ accused eBay of informally agreeing with Intuit not to hire each others' workers. According to the agency, e-mails showed then-eBay chief executive Meg Whitman complaining to Intuit co-founder Scott Cook about his company sending a recruitment flier to an eBay employee.

"Remind your folks not to send this stuff to eBay people," Whitman said in the e-mail, according to DOJ.  Cook apologized and vowed to look into the matter.

Thursday's settlement prohibits eBay from entering into future pacts designed to prevent workers from being offered jobs (and higher salaries) elsewhere.

"Our enforcement actions should make it abundantly clear that the antitrust laws apply to every industry, including companies that innovate and companies in the high-tech industry," U.S. Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer told reporters during a conference call. "These companies and the executives who run them are not above the law."

EBay said it had long ago stopped the kinds of activities that drew the Justice Department's lawsuit. "eBay continues to believe that the policy that prompted this lawsuit was acceptable and legal, and led to no anticompetitive effects in the talent market in which eBay competed," the company said in a statement.

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post.
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