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DOJ reaches settlement with eBay to end no-poach hiring deals

The proposed settlement would bar eBay from entering into no-hire agreements with other tech firms

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The U.S. Department of Justice would prohibit eBay from entering into agreements with other tech firms to not recruit each other's employees, in a settlement announced by the agency Thursday.

The settlement would bring to an end a long DOJ investigation into anticompetitive hiring practices at several tech companies, including Google, Apple and Intel.

The proposed settlement in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California would prohibit eBay from entering or maintaining for five years what the DOJ called anticompetitive agreements related to employee hiring and retention. The settlement would broadly prohibit eBay from entering into or enforcing any agreement that prevents any competitor from soliciting, cold calling, recruiting, hiring or otherwise competing for employees. 

The DOJ, in November 2012, accused eBay of entering into a "handshake" agreement to not recruit or hire employees of software maker Intuit.

In the DOJ's antitrust lawsuit, the agency alleged that senior executives and directors of eBay and Intuit entered into an agreement, beginning in about 2006, that prevented each firm from recruiting employees from the other and that prohibited eBay from hiring Intuit employees that approached eBay. 

"EBay's agreement with Intuit served no purpose but to limit competition between the two firms for employees, distorting the labor market and causing employees to lose opportunities for better jobs and higher pay," Bill Baer, assistant attorney general in at the DOJ's Antitrust Division, said in a statement.  "The proposed settlement ... ensures that eBay will not engage in similar conduct in the future."

An eBay spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for comments on the settlement.

Intuit is already working under similar consent decree, and was not a defendant in this case.

The settlement comes after a series of DOJ Antitrust Division investigations into employee recruitment practices at several tech companies.  In September 2010, the Antitrust Division filed a civil antitrust lawsuit against six tech firms -- Adobe Systems, Apple, Google, Intel, Intuit and Pixar -- for antitrust violations arising from "no cold call" agreements. 

In December 2010, the division filed a civil antitrust lawsuit against Lucasfilm, alleging antitrust violations involving similar activities restraining competition for employees. In both cases, settlements were filed at the same time the lawsuits were filed. 

EBay had earlier filed a motion to dismiss the DOJ's case against it, but the district court denied the motion.

Also on Thursday, the California Attorney General's Office filed a settlement in its related case against eBay.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.



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