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May 29, 2017

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Judge rejects US$324.5 mil. settlement of tech wage case

SAN FRANCISCO--A federal judge has decided a US$324.5 million settlement isn't enough to cover the damages done to more than 60,000 high-tech workers in a class-action lawsuit alleging Google and Apple conspired with other technology companies to block their top employees from getting better job offers.

The ruling Friday by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh scotches a settlement reached in April, prolonging a 3-year-old case that paints a mean-spirited picture of late Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs and other prominent Silicon Valley executives.

Koh estimated that the workers deserve at least US$380 million, based on the evidence indicating their earning power was undermined by the collusion among their employers.

Attorneys representing the workers originally were seeking USUS$3 billion in damages before settling for about 10 percent of that amount in a deal reached in April. If US$3 billion in damages had been awarded in a trial, it could have been tripled to US$9 billion under U.S. antitrust law.

A US$9 billion award would have paid the affected workers an average of more than US$140,000. Koh estimated that after subtracting lawyers' fees and other payments, the workers would have received an average of US$3,750 had she approved the US$324.5 million settlement. That amount "falls below the range of reasonableness," she wrote.

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