One of the plaintiffs in the no-hire pact lawsuit against Silicon Valley tech firms has asked the court to reject a $324m settlement deal negotiated by his own lawyers because he says it’s “grossly inadequate”.
Lawyers in the case reached a settlement with Apple, Google and other giants accused of conspiring to keep IT workers' wages down by agreeing not to poach each other’s staff.
The settlement, which was announced late last month, was called “an excellent resolution” by one of the leading lawyers for the plaintiffs. But one of those plaintiffs, Michael Devine, clearly doesn’t agree.
Devine, one of only four named plaintiffs in the class-action suit covering thousands of tech workers in the valley, urged the court to reject the offer in a letter made public by The New York Times.
“[The $324m settlement] is grossly inadequate and fails to achieve justice for the class,” he wrote. “Therefore, I respectfully ask that the court reject it as unfair and unjust. The class wants a chance at real justice. We want our day in court.”
Devine claimed that when Facebook rejected Google’s attempts to draw it into the alleged conspiracy, the firm felt compelled to raise its annual compensation by ten per cent just to stop its workers from decamping for the social network.
“This settlement, in contrast, will amount to less than one per cent of compensation for each class member over the duration of the illegal agreements. That’s one tenth of the experts’ estimates of damages and is lacking in any penalty. There’s no justice for the class in that, nor is there any real deterrent to future wrongdoing,” he said.
Devine also asserted that he wasn’t told about the most recent round of mediation until the day after the lawyers had reached their tentative settlement. He said that even after being left out, he told his lawyers in writing that he found the agreed deal inadequate and he opposed it.
“Despite this, plaintiffs’ counsel proceeded with informing the court that a settlement agreement had been reached and thus litigation was halted. Is the role of class representative a mere formality absent substance?” he demanded.
“The tentative settlement, if it stands, amounts to big profits for plaintiffs’ counsel, insulation from real liability for the defendants and locks in a significant net loss for the class,” he complained.
Tech workers filed the suit against Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, Intuit and Pixar in 2011 after the firms reached a settlement with the Department of Justice, which was investigating their hiring practices. The workers were hoping for $3bn in damages if they won the case in court, which could have tripled to $9bn under certain antitrust law requirements.