Apple, Google $591m staff poaching settlement approved

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Apple, Google $591m staff poaching settlement approved

US judge gives go-ahead.

A US judge has granted final approval to a US$415 million (A$591 million) settlement that ends a high-profile lawsuit in which workers accused four technology companies of conspiring to hold down salaries.

The plaintiffs alleged that Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe Systems agreed to avoid poaching each other's employees, thus limiting job mobility and, as a result, keeping a lid on salaries.

In a ruling today, US District Judge Lucy Koh found the deal was fair to the thousands of plaintiff workers in the class action.

Attorneys representing those workers had asked for about US$81 million in fees. However, Koh decided such an award would be an inappropriate "windfall" for the lawyers, and awarded about US$40 million instead.

The antitrust class action lawsuit was filed in 2011. It has been closely watched because of the possibility that big damages might be awarded and for the opportunity to peek into the world of some elite US tech firms.

The case was based largely on emails in which Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and some of their rivals detailed plans to avoid poaching each other's prized engineers.

The companies had reached the settlement earlier this year. Koh had rejected an earlier offer of US$324.5 million as too low after one of the plaintiffs objected.

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