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The Almighty Buck Businesses Handhelds Apple Hardware

Apple Allegedly Sought Non-Poaching Deal With Palm 181

Posted by kdawson
from the hands-off-or-at-least-palms-off dept.
theodp writes "A Bloomberg report that Apple CEO Steve Jobs proposed a possibly illegal truce with Palm against poaching their respective employees is sure to pique the interest of the US Department of Justice, which already is investigating whether Google, Yahoo, Apple, Genentech and other tech companies conspired to keep others from stealing their top talent. 'Your proposal that we agree that neither company will hire the other's employees, regardless of the individual's desires, is not only wrong, it is likely illegal,' former Palm CEO Ed Colligan reportedly told Jobs in August 2007." The article notes that Apple was probably reacting to Palm's hiring of Jon Rubenstein, who had been instrumental in developing the iPod and went on to spearhead the Pre for Palm (and has now become Palm's chairman and CEO). "It's the story about the importance of charismatic engineers," said veteran Silicon Valley forecaster Paul Saffo. "People don't work for Palm. They work for Jon Rubinstein. One has to wonder how Steve Jobs ever let Jon Rubinstein leave."
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Apple Allegedly Sought Non-Poaching Deal With Palm

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 21, 2009 @08:45AM (#29145639)

    These cases come up all the time, they fall under restraint of trade. If Apple want to stop someone working elsewhere by contract shenanigans, they have to pay that employee until the contract dates expires.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 21, 2009 @08:54AM (#29145733)

    "At Apple, it's a simple "You work here" interface."

    At least it was just a potential legal agreement.

    I love how it was suggested in William Gibson's novel _Count Zero_. Corporations defended against employee migrations to competitors with imprisonment (you worked in plush headquarters you weren't allowed to leave), military force (railgun), brain bomb implants (leave, die, a la MI3), and my favorite, the suggested (ex-)employee isn't harmed, just some (biological) agent is released that kills everyone around them that helped to extract or employ them in the future if employee doesn't maintain his injections of protein X which we've made them "dependent" on.

    Poaching? Shrug.

  • by gubers33 (1302099) on Friday August 21, 2009 @08:54AM (#29145737)
    Never, why would Steve Jobs do something like that? Jobs is a cut throat CEO, who for some reason people think is so much better than Bill Gates when the two are practically the same, the difference being that at least Gates gives to charity daily, where as Jobs does not. Don't get me know I think that Apple has amazing technologies, but they are definitely overpriced when they don't need to because Jobs himself thinks he is better than so many.
  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Friday August 21, 2009 @08:56AM (#29145757) Homepage Journal

    You're talking about the situation where Apple's contract with the employee states that said employee may not work for competitor(s).

    This is different. It's either:

    Palm state they won't hire anyone who works for Apple (& vice versa).


    Palm state they won't actively solicit current employees of Apple (& vice versa).

    Since the original article is full of speculative crap and theodp's summary is full of shrill hysterics it's difficult to tell which. IANAL but I'd guess at least the second of those is probably legal.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <> on Friday August 21, 2009 @09:06AM (#29145883) Homepage Journal

    Jobs is, if not an innovator, then at least very clever about which trends to follow and has built a cult of personality. He is an ass, but he's a nerd's kind of ass who admires elegance and wants to get things done.

    Bill Gates is a manipulator and has built a cult of anti-personality. Of course, neither one is Jesus. They're both just some corporate masters of your capitalistic destiny. Gates, of course, is the far more successful. He has the kind of power that Jobs fantasizes about; at the top of the Gates foundation, he can alter the futures of whole nations through investment and charity... or the lack thereof.

  • by Miros (734652) * on Friday August 21, 2009 @09:20AM (#29145977)
    Agreed. It's clearly illegal. The Sherman Antitrust act specifically prohibits

    "[e]very contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce."

    The test of this, derrived in a 1918 court case in Chicago, is along the lines of:

    "Every agreement concerning trade, every regulation of trade, restrains. To bind, to restrain, is of their very essence. The true test of legality is whether the restraint imposed is such as merely regulates and perhaps thereby promotes competition or whether it is such as may suppress or even destroy competition."

    All material from wikipedia article on US antitrust laws found here: []

  • by WaywardGeek (1480513) on Friday August 21, 2009 @09:33AM (#29146101) Journal

    Actually, this sort of agreement is common practice, even in Silicon Valley. One example: I left QuickLogic to join Synplicity. Soon after, all my friends were joining Synplicity. QuickLogic was a customer of Synplicity. QuickLogic's CEO had a talk with Synplicity's CEO, and soon after I was told that we don't hire QuickLogic people any more. BTW, both QuickLogic and Synplicity were fantastic companies to work for back then. We'd simply stripped (without meaning too) most of the software talent from QuickLogic, so it's understandable their CEO was pissed. Regardless of the law, most companies can't afford too piss off their customers.

    The only thing strange about that situation was it's technically illegal in California. However, such practice is perfectly legal here in NC where I live now. My old boss had an employee in our group that was very good. My boss went to Avanti, and told them never, under any conditions, would he allow that employee to switch to Avanti. You see, in NC, most employees have legally binding non-competition clauses in their employment agreements, which tend to stand up in court, so if you want to change jobs, your boss can threaten sue you directly. This is one of the main reasons high-tech startups suck wind here. Anyway, Avanti saw my old boss's passion about this one guy, so they offered him a job he couldn't refuse right away. D'oh!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 21, 2009 @09:46AM (#29146215)

    Huh? According to the recruiter I was definitely covered by an anti-poaching agreement between Lucasarts and my former employer even though I had left that employer (and moved to a third country) over a year ago. Last time I checked Lucasarts was in California (but this was years ago).

  • by gubers33 (1302099) on Friday August 21, 2009 @09:54AM (#29146313)
    You are ripping on me because I don't don't give as much as Jobs? I'm not a CEO who makes millions of dollars, so you are right. And I ripped on Jobs and Gates, both were cut throat CEOs who screwed a lot of people over. I was bringing to notice that Jobs hasn't gotten as bad as a rep as Gates has gotten. Jobs is viewed as cool and hip even though he has screwed over so many and has appeared to taken part in some illegal activities along the way. And I am not a PC person or a Mac person, though I do own one of each. I primarily run Centos at home and Red Hat at work, so I am pretty neutral on that front. I'm ripping on Jobs more for being extremely arrogant, for thinking he could get away with something like this.
  • by mabhatter654 (561290) on Friday August 21, 2009 @10:00AM (#29146371)

    The problem is that if you DON'T setup these types of agreements, and continue hiring away employees from direct competitors then you open yourself up to nasty patent/trade secret disputes. You've made a business practice of hiring employees with inside knowledge and you just set yourself up for the lawsuits.. that's why they call it "poaching'.

    Many business partners have these agreements, so that suppliers aren't competing with their customers for employees on the same projects... after all, why pay another company to do a job when you can just hire their best employees?

    From the slashdotter point of view, the headhunting is quite bad for YOUR career. Because these companies headhunt off each other, that means they're not looking for NEW talent (which of course there is such a shortage of!!!) preferring to hire the guy away that did the last cool project that was published, skyrocketing salaries pricing you, the mid-level employee, out of the game. Consider it like salary caps in sports. The stars make multi-million dollar deals.. the other 29 guys that practice just as hard and show up for all the games too get $75k tops ... In the same way, for each of these "rockstars" there's an army of guys making barely enough to afford living 2 hours from work (in northern California mind you).. but they make the "rockstars" look good and get the product shipped on time.

    This is why the companies focus on out-of-college recruiting almost exclusively (and there aren't enough new graduates willing to work like they have 10 years experience)... so they can pay sub-market wages and dangle the "rockstar" salary, eventually, rather than looking for older, meticulous, team players that get things done on time and under budget... and don't even work OT to do it! But of course they don't work for "rockstar" wages and they don't work for "newbie" wages either.

  • by tixxit (1107127) on Friday August 21, 2009 @10:02AM (#29146383)
    In a free-market there wouldn't be any collusion, because all information is known (ie. there are no secret agreements). An employee would join Apple knowing full well he can't be employed anywhere else. If potential employees know this, then top-talent would stay away, thus hurting Apple.
  • by dbet (1607261) on Friday August 21, 2009 @10:08AM (#29146475)
    The more rotation of new employees you have, the more training and orientation they need, the less productivity you get out of your staff. On the flip side, this can be self-correcting because employers will look unfavorably at someone who has changed jobs 6 times in the last 8 years, encouraging people to pick their jobs carefully and stay a while.
  • by gubers33 (1302099) on Friday August 21, 2009 @10:09AM (#29146485)
    Anything else? [] There is a link talking about it, let me know if you want anything else master and I'll be happy to oblige.
  • by mfnickster (182520) on Friday August 21, 2009 @10:26AM (#29146695)

    One has to wonder how Steve Jobs ever let Jon Rubinstein leave."

    Simple - by forcing him to report to Steve Jobs.

    Jobs probably just told him "You don't matter as much as you think you do, anyway." []

  • by Animats (122034) on Friday August 21, 2009 @10:39AM (#29146899) Homepage

    I know someone who moved from the iPhone project to Palm. He was at a high enough level to be screamed at by Steve Jobs in person, and he didn't like that. He waited until the iPhone shipped, then left for a company with sane management.

  • I find it annoying (Score:3, Interesting)

    by moniker127 (1290002) on Friday August 21, 2009 @11:14AM (#29147425)
    that if this were microsoft, people would be yelling and screaming, and calling ballmer an evil bastard.
    But noooo.... since this is apple- half the freaking people will defend them even if they're being evil.
    Look- it does not matter how shiny or great your new mac is- the corporation that made it is just as underhanded and evil as its main competitor, just less successful at being evil.
  • by King_TJ (85913) on Friday August 21, 2009 @02:40PM (#29150043) Journal

    Apple's technologies are "definitely overpriced when they don't need to because Jobs himself think he is better than so many"??

    1. Companies price their products at whatever price the market will bear. If they don't, they go OUT of business due to lack of sales. Apple is having no problem moving their products at their asking prices. (In fact, they're still building more Apple retail stores at a time when most companies are closing them!)

    2. The average person you run into who thinks that Steve Jobs is a "better" person than Bill Gates usually believes that because they've heard so much negativity about Microsoft's products and claimed "anti-competitive" behavior. In most situations, people like to root for the under-dog, all other things being essentially equal, and that's really what you've got here. Microsoft has the lion's share of the operating system market, and Apple stands out as the only company making a serious effort at offering a commercial alternative to that operating system. Outside of "tech geek" circles, I doubt most people know much of anything about the personal lives or behavior of EITHER man.

    3. I haven't heard it mentioned very often, but sometimes I wonder if Steve Jobs really has sort of a disdain for "geeks" and techie types who obsess over things like computers and gadgetry? I've read that in his personal life, he likes keeping things pretty basic (having gone for long periods of time owning places that don't even have any real furniture in some of the rooms). We certainly know his clothing choices are pretty basic (doesn't get much more basic than blue-jeans and a black t-shirt). He's also traditionally been obsessed with very "clean" design that sticks to basic shapes, and always seemed to be in pursuit of a very quiet, unobtrusive computer (even when removal of the fans resulted in system temperatures running near the thermal limits of the hardware). He seems to be proud of the company's achievements on the whole, yet dislikes the "hard core" fans enough to financially gouge early-adopters who "gotta have the shiny new product first!" (Polar opposite strategy of what one might expect, where early-adopters get some kind of price BREAK or extra incentive to buy a first revision product....) It reminds me, in some ways, of George Lucas and his treatment of science-fiction fans who blog and rave about the Star Wars franchise. He's often made it clear he can't relate to those types - despite putting out products that would seem to target them directly.

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