back to article US Justice to ratchet tech no-poach probe

The US Department of Justice is about ready to ratchet an investigation into what could be salary fixing in the tech industry, according to a report citing people familiar with the matter. Antitrust lawsuits usually focus on the effects that collusion among providers of a good or service to fix prices or carve up markets, …


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  1. jake Silver badge

    Thanks for the laugh! And I don't mean that in a bad way :-)

    "an investigation into what cloud be salary fixing"

    THAT typo made me laugh out cloud ... I hope you choose to leave it :-)

    (On the other hand, is it indicative of marketing pushing "clouds" at us entirely too much? Something to ponder, anyway ...)

  2. Alien Doctor 1.1

    Is it me...

    Is it me or does this:

    "The US Department of Justice is about ready to ratchet an investigation into what cloud be salary fixing in the tech industry"

    ...make about as much sense as the matrix sequels, Japanese RPG's or Nigel Farage?

    Beer - yup, please and no more for the article author or transcriber.

  3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    "Nothing works quite so well as sensible regulation, and nothing is so hard to come by."

    So, regulation does not actually work very well.

    1. Denarius

      Beats the alternative

      over-detailed regulation has lots of problems, but as the last 35 years have shown

      no effective regulation is far worse. Do you want a return to medieval serfdom ? Despite the lies of the rich, it is not a stable situation for a society, let alone a civilisation.

    2. Trevor Pott o_O Gold badge

      @Destroy All Monsters

      You are exactly right. The best things that ever happened to the US were the deregulation of the banking industry, and allowing the utilities companies to effectively write their own regulations in California.

      Fantastic! Down with government! Naked short selling is a perfectly acceptable practice! Artificial scarcity is a perfectly acceptable tool of business! Break all unions!

      Now if only we could remove all regulations from everywhere. Let’s start with health and safety regulations in the mining and construction industries. No need for those, they just impede profits! Next we can move onto child labour and discrimination laws; hey, why not just give corporations the vote while removing it from citizens?

      I love your utopia; It sounds grand. It will attract all the real nutjobs in the world. Subsequently the entire rest of the world can simply close the trade borders and let the US starve. We'll get on with our lives and let you tear yourselves apart.

      +1 to that idea, sir.

      1. jake Silver badge

        @Trevor Pott o_O

        "Break all unions!"

        I agree with this, actually. Unions are just a second management track, skimming money off the backs of the actual workers. They had a role a century ago, but now we have working labor laws.

        Don't believe me, union card holder? What vehicle do you drive? What vehicle does your boss drive? What vehicle does your union-boss drive? Q.E.D.

        Or look at the closure of the NUMMI plant in Fremont, CA. Paying folks $39/hr to do nothing more than to mount the tyres/rims and then screw the lug-nuts on the left side of new Toyotas, simply because they have been with the union for 18 years, does not make for a profitable manufacturing facility.

        Trade unions are an anachronism, and need to be done away with.

        1. Trevor Pott o_O Gold badge


          Sadly, I don't belong to a union. I can answer all of your questions based on several friends who managed to join a good union here. What car does my buddy drive? Why a rather nice Camry, with all the fixings. What car does his boss drive? Actually...a rather nice Camry, with all the fixings. What does the head of his union drive? A Sebring convertible; missing some of the fixings.

          Of course, here in Alberta there are a few categories of Union. Some, (such as the TWU,) are complete piles of ass and failure and simply need to be purged from the earth in a firey cataclysm. Some, (like AUPE and CUPE) still serve a valid purpose and aren't out to "skim money from their members."

          The difference seems to be public versus private unions. Unions of individuals employed by the private sector (with one or two exceptions) seem to do little anymore. AS you pointed out, workplace regulations took care of their needs moons ago. Some are still needed, especially in our mining and oilfield industries...but for the "average joe" they serve no purpose.

          Unions for publicly employed individuals however seem to be very good and necessary. I don't know how things work where you are from but here we have public health, education and many other services. Were it not for our unions those teachers, doctors, nurses, policemen, firemen and many more besides would be working for minimum wage. Instead of the absolutely top notch services we receive from these individuals today, we’d have collections of poor, bitter, disenfranchised workers. Instead of our public services employing the best of the best, they would merely employ those who could not find work elsewhere.

          I’d rather our police not become bitter and secretive like in the UK; jealous of the little they have, constantly afraid of losing it. Our firemen are chronically understaffed; to ask them to work at the poverty line would be beyond lunacy and so I am glad their union kicks our government in the ass periodically. Most of our teachers are overstretched, and it’s good that our unions work hard not only to ensure what id best for their union members...but the results are better for our children as well. (Mandatory maximum class sizes, as an example.)

          I don’t know if a union is necessary in say, Sweden. They’ve got most things sewn up tight there. Alberta however is as American as a Canadian province gets. My provincial government was bought and paid for ages ago; they are constantly trying to privatise our education, health care and other social services. They are constantly trying to remove regulation on our resource industries. The only thing that prevents the decline of our civilisation into something resembling the US seems to be our unions.

          For that reason alone; I hope they last forever. In most of Canada, we don’t seem to need unions. Alberta and Ontario seem to be the two places where they simply must exist. Many EU countries don’t have much need for unions, though some of the more recent joiners certainly do. Most of the second and third world nations however really require them. If you live in the US’re already boned. That country is such a mess that unions aren’t going to help. It’ll take them fifty years for their social programs to catch up to even the recent joiners of the EU, and another fifty before they can weed out greed-based inefficiency. (Seriously, per capital health care spending is higher in the US than anywhere else in the western world, with significantly worse service and only partial coverage!)

          Unions are not the answer to everything...but they have their place. Some, (like the TWU,) have overstayed their welcome and should be disbanded.

          YMMV, depending on political beliefs, level of selfishness/greed/amount you buy into the dream the plutonomists feed us to try to keep us quiescent. YMMV also depending on geographical region and the social development of the populace/corruption of government.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    something smells

    One way all of these companies are keeping wages down is by hiring people on H1B visa. You can always be replaced by someone who thinks that working an 80 hour week for half of the going wage is a major step up. It looks more like a warning to keep quiet about the cost of the health care land grab. ATT and Verizon announcements about billion dollar accounting charges because of the bill greatly embarrassed the administration.

    Your article makes it clear that the anti-trust laws are used more as a political weapon than anything that is good for the country.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby

      Naw this is just a smoke screen...

      I think you're right about the H1B. The current excuse is that by bringing in these workers, it stops the jobs from going overseas. On paper, or at least in theory, the idea is to attract the world's best and brightest to work in the US. In practice, its a way to bring in barely trained and competent workers who are willing to work for less than the US's prevailing wage.

      But this investigation in to "anti-poaching" isn't about H1B at all and is more about anti-competitive practices of retaining highly skilled workers so that a company may maintain a competitive advantage where they can not achieve market dominance through patents.

      Its merely a distraction to shift the focus away from the H1B issue or the migration of US jobs offshore.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      it's called "Capitalism"

      "One way all of these companies are keeping wages down is by hiring people on H1B visa. You can always be replaced by someone who thinks that working an 80 hour week for half of the going wage is a major step up."

      And this is how capitalism works. Free movement of goods and skills. If one decides to not accept the value set by the free market, then one is either delusional or a stinking Communist. Are you suggesting that the USA turn Communist by having everyone work for the same wage or something? Or that is lock it's borders and not let people or goods in?

      1. Trevor Pott o_O Gold badge


        Communism, like capitalism is a bad plan. They are both extremes on the spectrum, with socialism being the meeting point between the two. Would I suggest the US become a socialist country? Hell yes; with a loud and deafening endorsement. The US, indeed most of the world could truly benefit from a healthy dose of European socialism. Take the best of countries like France, Germany, Sweden etc. Learn from their systems to see what has the greatest benefit for their citizens, and where they made mistakes setting their countries up. It's fair play. They looked at your country (among others) to find the mistakes in how yours was set up when they last redesigned their economic and social systems.

        As to "how capitalism works; free movement of goods and skills," the problem is that there isn't a free movement of goods and skills. There is only a free movement of skills. It's easy for companies to get access to cheap labour; less so for regular citizens to get access to cheap goods. Those folks in India can work for less money per month than folks in the US because their cost of living, (the goods and shelter the need to survive) are proportionately much lower. The issue people have with the current system in the US is that the wages are being driven down without a proportional lowering of the cost of living.

        Globalisation should in theory equalise both wages and the cost of goods around the world. (Or at least in all countries that are participating the global market.) The truth of the matter is that globalisation only equalises wages; not goods.

        Capitalism only works when everyone plays the game according to certain rules. One of those is reinvestment. Those who are in charge of megopolies at the top have long ago ceased reinvesting in the economy. The game now is simply to see which rich person can remove the most energy from the system. The bottom 99% of society are desperately scrambling to survive on an ever decreasing amount of capital because the plutonomists of the top 1% are not only removing everything the can from the system, but have a vested interest in preventing anyone from discovering new ways to inject energy/capital into the system. It worked fine when the US could create more energy at the bottom than was being sucked out at the top; but this relied entirely on being able to destroy the environment. Not only that; other countries than the US actually have industry and stable economies; the US has real competition.

        The world has changed since the 1950s; grow up and move on. Cooperation and competition need to work hand in hand for any country to survive; neither is foundation enough on it’s own for a civilisation of any size, much less an empire.

    3. PrivateCitizen

      H1B yes please

      I wish there were more tech companies in the US hiring on an H1B, as I would be over there like a shot. Sadly, nearly ever job I see that is open to furriners asks for a green card.

  5. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    A QuITe Alien Question for Foreigners. Well, Three Really.

    Is the Cloud Realisation Dawning on the US, Land of the Free to be a Slave to the System and Free Market Capitalist Economic Model, that Information Traders Rule Earth SCADA Systems and Reign Supreme and Unenforceable in CyberSpace ....... and from that Vast Virtual Space does IT Control Human Perception for Currency Power with Commanding Energy on a ZerodDay Basis?

    Or are their Heads buried in the Sand and they are to be kept in the Dark about such Present Matters?

  6. Dazed and Confused

    Reducing prices

    Stopping companies attracting away talented staff from competitors far from pushing prices up is likely to help bring prices down. The companies wouldn't be interested in each others staff if they didn't feel they could contribute to the health of the company.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Dazed and Confused indeed

      I think you missed the bit that read:

      "So, instead of keeping prices artificially high, this practice keeps costs artificially low."

      It does keep prices down but it does this by keeping costs lower than the market rate should be. Is that a legitimate tactic for a free market economy?

      Does the customer benefit from preventing the talent to move about in response to market forces? Is this conspiring to fix prices - low or high? Is this acceptable?

  7. Anonymous Coward

    If the DoJ was serious about anti-trust

    They would nail Apple to the wall for it's behavior regarding software on its iPhone, IPad, etc.

    1. The BigYin

      Apple... not a monopoly player, other computers, portable players and phones exist.

      If Apple controlled, say, 90%+ of the desktop PC market and acted the way it is currently, then you would have a point.

      This is why it is MS (and not Apple) who needs to face the judge again.

  8. Michael 17


    "Nothing works quite so well as sensible regulation, and nothing is so hard to come by."

    That's a ridiculous assertion. Sensible regulations number in the many thousands in any developed country. The right has long attempted to fight regulation by pointing out the silly examples, but it's quiet easy to find any number of regulatory regimes that function perfectly well. As commenter Denarius previously pointed out, any down sides to regulation are far less than the down sides of no regulation.

    Just because the right has spent the last few decades claiming government interference makes things worse doesn't make it so.

  9. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    There's an argument against hiring the opposition's staff.

    In IT, employees are likely to hold a lot of information that may or may not officially amount to "trade secrets". Even such things as business methods software coding tricks. You don't want your people to take those to your competitor, and although you might be legally obliged to, we often hear about contract terms where an employee agrees not to go to your competitor.

    If you're the second employer, you probably don't want to hire people who are encunmbered by such outstanding contract terms. Except to get their employer's trade secrets, of course. But you're supposed not to do that.

    The anecdotes about Apple's practice on trade secrecy seem to describe particularly strict enforcement, perhaps necessarily so.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      if you don't want them to leave...

      ...then pay the market rate to retain them. It's not difficult, is it?

    2. PrivateCitizen

      Keep your staff?

      Isnt this the problem?

      Yes, as an IT worker you may well know things your employer doesnt want to lose but then they need to take the steps necessary to keep you (good wages, good working conditions etc). its a powerful bargaining chip for good employees and is used in every other walk of life.

      Because these tech companies want the benefit of keeping their employees without going through the hassle of retaining, they have effectively prevented any movement of staff. Surely this is 100% anti-comptetive behaviour.

      In a market with limited competion, it is effectively saying if you land a job with XYZ, you are stuck there for life because their cartel like behaviour will prevent others from hiring you. As a result of this each company can keep the wages artificially low - making it harder for companies *not* part of the cartel to compete.

      Its wrong on every level. Even the customer loses out.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Robert Carnegie

    Such "non-competition" clauses in employee contracts are notoriously difficult to enforce in California, where Google and Apple of course have a ton of their employees. California law gives employees a lot of leeway to get out from under anything that might constitute "restraint of trade" that would prevent them from taking another job is the same or a similar field.

    Other states I can't say much about...

    I think its a valid investigation. Here in the Valley, it's well-known that Apple and Google have a gentleman's agreement of sorts on poaching from eachother. While I had never thought of that in terms of restraint of trade, it might certainly qualify.

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