Why is Tim Cook Headed to Court?

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) chief executive Tim Cook has been asked to give a court deposition in a lawsuit against the iPhone maker and several other tech companies that claims they violated antitrust laws. According to the lawsuit filed by several former employees, the companies entered into agreements to not place “cold calls” to recruit workers from each other, Bloomberg said.

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The other defendants in the case include Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE), Disney’s (NYSE:DIS) Pixar, Intuit, (NASDAQ:INTU), and Lucasfilm. Google chairman Eric Schmidt and Intel chief executive officer Paul Otellini will also be deposed.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, issued the order to have Cook depose and said she was disappointed senior executives at the companies involved hadn’t been in court earlier. Koh said that since late Apple founder Steve Jobs had been copied on e-mails being considered in the case, she found it “hard to believe” that Cook, Apple’s then chief operating officer, was not in on the agreements.

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The companies had settled similar claims with the U.S. Justice Department in 2010. Apple and six other defendants also tried to have the current lawsuit dismissed in April last year, but Koh cited a high probability of collusion and refused. On Thursday, the judge added that internal emails had showed unnamed company executives reached a consensus that an agreement to not poach each other’s workers would result in financial gains. Judge Koh is currently also deciding whether the suit should be classified as a class action. Attorneys estimate that in the civil suit filed by the five plaintiffs, damages could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars.

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