Dead Steve Jobs' wage-fixing pact in Silicon Valley was news to us, claim Apple directors

Cupertino's top brass fend off lawsuit from shareholders

Apple insists its top execs were not aware of the employee wage-fixing pact Steve Jobs apparently had between his Silicon Valley rivals.

Apple stockholder R. Andre Klein is suing the iPhone giant's CEO Tim Cook, a handful of its directors and the Jobs' estate, on behalf of the company's shareholders, claiming the top brass must have known about Jobs' unlawful dealmaking with other companies. Klein alleges the tawdry agreements damaged Apple's reputation, scared off potential hires, and cost the biz millions of dollars.

Google, Apple, Intel and Adobe had agreed not to poach each others' techies, effectively keeping engineers' wages down by not offering them more money to move jobs, it's claimed. The four companies were sued by their employees in a class-action suit, and in January this year, the four giants settled out of court by offering staff a $415m (£278m) windfall.

(Back in 2014, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said under oath that she had been approached to enter a no-poaching agreement with Apple, but had declined to take Steve Jobs' offer. The US Department of Justice also looked into the claims of collusion, but decided to levy no charges or fines, and instead told the companies involved to knock it off.)

This month, in response to Klein's lawsuit, Apple has filed an objection [PDF] to the stockholder's accusations, telling the US district court of northern California that the iGiant's directors had no idea about the late Steve Jobs' alleged dealings.

"Plaintiff’s argument boils down to an opinion that the current Board members must have known of Apple’s cold-calling practices because they were Apple directors, and, for some, because of their alleged relationship with Jobs and their roles with other companies that purportedly engaged in the challenged conduct," reads the objection, obtained by The Register today.

"Plaintiff is unable to point to any specific allegation supporting an inference that any of Apple’s Board members in office at the time of the filing of the Complaint knew about or permitted the allegedly improper agreements or were otherwise unable to properly consider a demand from Plaintiff.

"Instead, Plaintiff relies almost exclusively on the positions held by certain Apple directors and the alleged friendship between certain directors and the late Steve Jobs. This is simply not enough."

The case, R. Andre Klein v. Timothy D. Cook et al., (number 5:14-cv-03634) continues. ®

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