How dumb was the Silicon Valley hiring conspiracy? Let us count the ways
By Chris O'Brien
When I think of Google, Apple, Intel, Intuit, Adobe and Pixar, the words that come to mind are usually innovative and progressive.
In the wake of their shocking settlement with the federal government Friday over charges they colluded to not hire each other's employees, another word comes to mind:
It's not just that their actions are shameful.
It's not just that these actions violate everything Silicon Valley represents.
These agreements reveal a profound insecurity about their ability to compete on free and fair terms with one another.
But more than that, these actions are unspeakably DUMB.
How dumb was this ill-conceived and poorly executed conspiracy? Let us count the ways.
1. There is no way that potential savings from these ridiculous schemes could have warranted the risks. Just how much money are we talking about saving by not losing a few important employees? Thousands? Chump change. Dumb.
2. Whatever the costs, we're talking about multinational corporations with billions of dollars in the bank. Really, they couldn't dip into those rainy day funds to counter a few offers? It's not just miserly. It's dumb.
3. We knew Apple was a bully. Turns out, it is an even bigger bully than we realized. According to the complaint: "Apple requested an agreement from Adobe to refrain from cold-calling each other's employees. Faced with the likelihood that refusing would result in retaliation
and significant competition for its employees, Adobe agreed." Pissing off a key ally? Dumb.
4. Now, everyone working at one of these companies has got to be thinking the same thing: "Did I get screwed?" That's not exactly the kind of gung-ho, morale-building conversations you want going on. Dumb.
5. Those who do think they got the shaft may sue. And because this is an antitrust finding, the settlement will allow anyone who wins in federal court to "recover three times the damages the person has suffered." Say goodbye to whatever measly amounts the companies saved through these agreements. Dumb.
6. People maintained lists. They kept records. According to the complaint: "Pixar instructed human resources personnel to adhere to the agreement and maintain a paper trail in the event Apple accused Pixar of violating the agreement." Dumb.
7. Under this settlement, the Justice Department gets to check up on the companies just about whenever it pleases. Thought the federal government was interfering too much before? Well, congratulations. It will get worse. Dumb.
8. Did they really not think this would come to light? Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.