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Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe settle hiring antitrust case

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe Systems agreed to settle a lawsuit on behalf of more than 64,000 technical employees who claimed their incomes were held down by the companies’ agreements not to recruit one another’s workers.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed in a court filing by lawyers on both sides announcing their settlement. They said they planned to present the accord for a judge’s consideration by May 27.

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The Silicon Valley technology firms agreed to resolve the case brought in federal court San Jose rather than face a trial with a demand for as much as $3 billion in damages. Under federal antitrust law, damages won at trial could be tripled.

Evidence in the case included blunt exchanges in e-mails about no-hire arrangements among executives including Apple cofounder Steve Jobs and then-Google chief executive Eric Schmidt. Some of the e-mails surfaced in a similar lawsuit brought by the Justice Department that the companies settled in 2010.

The employees who sued gained leverage in October when US District Judge Lucy Koh allowed them to sue as a group.

Google’s vulnerability was further exposed when a statement from Facebook Inc. Chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg was unsealed in court records in March.

She asserted that while she was an executive at Google in 2006, she knew of an agreement to avoid recruiting some workers from software company Intuit Inc. She went on to say that she refused to limit hiring of Google employees after she joined Facebook in 2008, according to the filing. Sandberg and Facebook were not defendants in the case.

The plaintiffs include software and hardware engineers, programmers, animators, digital artists, Web developers, and other technical professionals.

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