Bill Campbell, CC ’62, TC ’64, and co-chair of Columbia’s board of trustees, has been named as a central figure in two ongoing, high-profile lawsuits involving several Silicon Valley companies.
The lawsuits allege that major tech companies including Apple, eBay, Google, Pixar, and Intuit—of which Campbell has served as the chairman since 2005—entered into agreements to refrain from recruiting each other’s employees, artificially deflating wage scales.
The first, a class-action lawsuit filed in 2011 by former employees, called out Adobe, Apple, Google, Intel, Lucasfilm, and Pixar for entering into anticompetitive no-solicitation agreements. While Intuit was originally part of the lawsuit, it entered into a separate settlement with the plaintiffs for an undisclosed sum in July 2013, Bloomberg reported at the time.
The second suit, filed in 2012 by the Department of Justice, similarly alleges an “anticompetitive agreement” between eBay and Intuit to not hire each other’s employees.
While the first suit deals with companies agreeing to not cold-call each other’s employees, the second complaint said that eBay agreed to not hire Intuit employees—even those that were actively applying.
Since Intuit has settled out of court, it’s unclear how much Campbell will continue to be involved in the proceedings.
But a joint discovery status report from February 2013 described Campbell, who’s also a member of Apple’s board of directors and a former adviser to Google, as a “central figure in the conspiracy.”
An October 2013 motion granting the case class certification quotes an email from Campbell requesting Google recruiters to add Intuit employees to their “do-not-call” lists.
The same document also says Campbell helped set up a similar agreement between Apple and Google in 2005 and between Google and Intel in 2006, quoting emails sent among Campbell, Steve Jobs, then-chairman and CEO of Apple, and Eric Schmidt, then-CEO of Google.
In a deposition submitted by Campbell in February 2013, he said he told Shona Brown, Google’s vice president of operations at the time, to stop cold-calling Intuit employees. However, he denied knowledge of specific agreements between Intuit or other companies not to cold-call each other’s employees.
Diane Carlini, a spokesperson for Intuit, said on Tuesday that Campbell’s “involvement [in the legal proceedings] is like the other leaders in the companies involved, nothing beyond that.”
Proceedings for the first case are set to begin on May 27 before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to hear the companies’ appeal of an October decision to allow the class-action suit to continue.
On Jan. 22, the U.S. District Court in Northern California ordered the parties to suspend hearings on the second case until further notice.
Court documents from the first case describe a “conspiracy [that] consisted of an interconnected web of express bilateral agreements among Defendants to abstain from actively soliciting each other’s employees.” The plaintiffs claim the goal was “to reduce employee compensation and mobility through eliminating competition for skilled labor.”
The plaintiffs of the class-action suit—comprised of more than 100,000 tech employees, according to a Jan. 23 PandoDaily article—said in documents that eliminating cold calling between companies “deprived all employees of information regarding pay packages” that they could have used for renegotiating contracts or finding new employment.
A VAR Guy article from Jan. 16 said that damages for the case could amount to as high as $9 billion worth of lost salaries and benefits for employees.