As part of a law suit here in Silicon Valley, via the emails of various CEOs, we have learned that titans of industry–those Galtian overlords–conspired to keep engineers from switching companies and presumably receiving higher wages. Instead of letting the invisible hand of the market determine the going rate for engineering talent, they had a Gentlemen’s Agreement to not steal employees from each other.
The inner workings of Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, and others are in the public spotlight.
Steve Jobs, who was a world-class asshole, which might be the secret to being such a gifted CEO, threatened a patent lawsuit against Palm if they did not stop poaching Apple engineers. Jobs wrote to then-Palm CEO Ed Colligan:
I’m sure you realize the asymmetry in the financial resources of our respective companies.”
Which is about as close to making him an offer he cannot refuse as you can get. Seriously, when the company with the highest value in the world tells you about its deep pockets while threatening litigation, you better believe that you’ve been warned. Next thing: a horse head on your pillow.
Eric Schmidt of Google (motto: Don’t Be Evil) of course was evil: Google’s former senior staffing strategist Amnon Geshuri informs Schmidt that a recruiter, having pursued an Apple employee, will be “terminated within the hour.”
Schmidt seems to have realized that all of these gentlemen’s agreements were probably unethical and potentially illegal. But being Eric Schmidt, instead of stopping the practice, he ordered everyone to quit leaving a paper trail, “less the company be sued later.” So, in short, a cover-up to a conspiracy. Nice work, Nixon. Can you recommend a plumber?
Likewise, Intel’s CEO Paul Otellini doesn’t want the handshake agreements to be “broadly known.” This pretty clearly indicates that these guys knew what they were doing was wrong, if not illegal and in a delicate knife-in-the-back twist of irony, declaring that there be no paper trail is now in the paper trail.
Yes, these CEOs are the same guys who squash any attempt to collectively bargain, who fight any regulations that might interfere with the alleged free-markets.
Now if only we had an Attorney General who was amongst the breathing, there might be charges and a highly entertaining frog-march of the elites to the pokey. But we don’t. We also don’t have a media that is covering this story. The business press isn’t covering this story, and if you want to consider how it could be that wages did not improve with the economy, here is one part of that puzzle. But the press is covering the vital issue of Beyoncé lip-syncing and the ever-present threat of celebrity side-boob.
The Verge has the entire collection of documents up in a gallery. It’s infuriating, but it is really worth reading.