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Summary:

A recent ruling made emails between the heads of Silicon Valley tech firms public, and the content shows these CEOs were pretty brazen in their approach to keeping their employees from going to competitors.

Steve Jobs

Emails made public as a result of a of a recent court ruling show how the late Steve Jobs and other Silicon Valley CEOs used brazen tactics to ensure their employees didn’t jump ship to competitors. The emails are part of an ongoing class action case in San Jose, Calif., in which employees are suing Apple, Palm (now part of HP), Intel, Google and other firms for allegedly entering into illegal pacts not to hire each others’ workers.

The Verge has posted all the emails, and it is worth reading them for yourself. A sampling of some of the quotes from the heads of Apple, Google, Intel, Pixar, Intuit, Adobe and Lucasfilm:

  • Jobs didn’t mince words when it came to defending his employees from poachers. When he found out Google was heavily recruiting from his iPod team, he asked then-CEO of Google Eric Schmidt, “Can you put a stop to it? Thanks, Steve.”
  • Jobs wasn’t above threats. As he told then-CEO of Palm Ed Colligan when complaining of Palm recruiting Apple engineers: “I’m sure you realize the asymmetry in the financial resources of our respective companies when you say: ‘We will both just end up paying a lot of lawyers a lot of money.’”
  • It’s clear they knew this was wrong and did it anyway. Intel CEO Paul Otellini said of his arrangement with Schmidt and Google, “We have nothing signed. We have a handshake ‘no-recruit’ between Eric and myself. I would not like this broadly known.”
  • Jobs was signing off personally on some employees’ recruitment. He was asked by current Pixar VP Rob Cook about a particular Apple employee he was recruiting to the animation studio, to which Jobs replied, “Yea, it’s fine.”

The Department of Justice investigation into this same matter was settled in 2010, but the civil suit is continuing. Apple CEO Tim Cook, who was COO when these emails were being sent back and forth between Jobs and others, has been ordered to sit for a deposition. Otellini will be deposed later this month, while Google Chairman Schmidt will give one in late February.

Image courtesy of Flickr user acaben

  1. Not a little irony when you recall hearing these same execs publicly lauding the valley culture born from California’s ban on non-competes.

  2. Brain drain is part of life. The more I know about Jobs the less I admire him.
    I do believe he could have manufacture all his products in USA, there is nothing wrong with outsourcing same time Foxcon did start kind of unwanted spiral of increases in salaries in Guandong province and that destroys China competitiveness, huge problem world wide.
    And wages they pay there are about the same as minimum wage in USA.

    1. And that is why we should admire and not worship other people. And by admire, i mean the good things. And don’t ignore the bad things – they must be pointed out.

  3. Brain drain is part of life. The more I know about Jobs the less I admire him.
    I do believe he could have manufacture all his products in USA, there is nothing wrong with outsourcing same time Foxcon did start kind of unwanted spiral of increases in salaries in Guandong province and that destroys China competitiveness, huge problem world wide.
    And wages they pay there are about the same as minimum wage in USA.

  4. “keeping their employees from going to competitors” Is THAT what it was, or was it to stop the recruiting of those who were already employed – and had knowledge of particular details that would have been unethical for that employee to divulge to other / competing companies.

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