Will Apple’s Anti-Poaching Lawsuit Settlement Offer Be Rejected?

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

To paraphrase a famous line from The Godfather: Part III – just when Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) thought it was out, it gets pulled back in. Last month, it appeared that Apple, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL), Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE), and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) had finally settled a long-running class action lawsuit when the tech companies offered to pay a combined total of $324.5 million to 64,000 former employees, reports Reuters. The payout was intended to provide compensation to thousands of Silicon Valley workers who were harmed by a widespread anti-poaching conspiracy that limited their job options and salary potential. However, recent comments from U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh suggest that the case may not be over yet.

According to Reuters, Judge Koh has expressed doubts about the relatively small amount that is being paid to the workers in the case. “I just have concerns about whether this is really fair to the class,” said Koh. The current settlement offer would give workers individual payouts between $2,000 and $8,000 after lawyers’ fees are subtracted. According to court documents seen by Reuters, the plaintiffs had originally planned to seek about $3 billion in damages, which could have been tripled to $9 billion under antitrust law.

Koh’s comments suggest that she is leaning toward the point of view expressed by Michael Devine, one of the named plaintiffs in the case. Devine objected to the amount of the settlement in a letter submitted to the court. In the letter provided by The New York Times, Devine used a pointed analogy to criticize the settlement offered by the tech companies. “[I]f a shoplifter is caught on video stealing a $400 iPad from the Apple Store, would a fair and just resolution be for the shoplifter to pay Apple $40, keep the iPad, and walk away with no record or admission of wrongdoing?” wrote Devine. “Of course not, nor is such a resolution appropriate in our case.

However, a lawyer for another plaintiff noted that proceeding with the case had its own risks, such as the possibility of being overturned on appeal. “Those are very, very real risks for plaintiffs,” said attorney Kelly Dermody, according to Reuters.