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Workers in tech case likely to get average of US$4K each

SAN FRANCISCO--Nearly 60,000 high-tech workers are likely to receive an average of US$4,000 apiece in a settlement of a class-action lawsuit alleging Apple and Google conspired in an illegal cartel of Silicon Valley employers that secretly refused to recruit each other's engineers.

The estimate is based upon an analysis of court documents in the case, including the terms of a US$324.5 million settlement outlined for the first time in a filing made late Thursday. The final amounts paid to each of the eligible workers will vary depending on their salaries during the four-year period covered by the lawsuit.

A federal judge still must approve the settlement, which is already facing resistance from one of the workers representing the entire class. A hearing on the settlement is scheduled for June 19 in a San Jose, California, federal court.

The US$324.5 million settlement will be paid by Apple Inc., Google Inc. and two other Silicon Valley companies, Intel Corp. and Adobe Systems Inc., accused of colluding to corral their top technology workers.

The 3-year-old lawsuit, triggered by an earlier U.S. Department of Justice investigation, uncovered evidence that former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and top executives from the other companies in the case had reached “no-poaching” pacts prohibiting each other from trying to lure away each other's top workers with offers of higher-paying jobs.

Three other companies, Intuit Inc., Pixar Animation and Lucasfilm, named in the lawsuit reached a separate US$20 million settlement that already has been approved by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh. Intuit paid US$11 million of that settlement, with Pixar and Lucasfilm — both now owned by Walt Disney Co. — covering the remainder.

No breakdown has been provided yet how Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe will divvy up the US$324.5 million bill for their settlement. The lawsuit depicted Apple and Google as the ringleaders of the alleged misconduct. The settlement represents a pittance for Apple and Google, which held a combined US$210 billion in their bank accounts through March.

It is also a fraction of the US$3 billion that the class-action attorneys had been seeking in the case. Because the complaint raised antitrust violations, the damages could have been tripled to US$9 billion had the companies been found liable in a trial.

A US$3 billion to US$9 billion award would have translated into average payments of US$50,000 to US$150,000 for the affected workers.

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