Before a 2010 Justice Department settlement barring the practice, Silicon Valley's biggest companies — and its biggest executives — used to handle their poaching problems with patent lawsuit threats, according to these juicy emails made pubic by a recent court filing. Apple CEO Steve Jobs, for example, sent Google CEO Eric Schmidt the following email, asking him to stop stealing his best people:
When those types of requests didn't work, the litigation threats would come, as you can see in this exchange between Jobs and Palm CEO Ed Colligan.
With a looming shadow verging on some sort of board-level blackmail, many big tech companies entered into unofficial "no-hire" agreements with one another, in which they promised not to poach high-value employees from one another. The setup, however, was probably illegal — and these execs seemed to know it, as evidenced by this hesitant note from Schmidt to Jobs:
Once the U.S. Justice Department started looking into it the fishy behavior, Google, Apple, Adobe, Intel, Intuit, and Disney's Pixar unit agreed to a settlement that put an end to these "no-hire" arrangements. While that led to today's rampant poaching culture in Silicon Valley today, it didn't put an end to the potential legal issues with the former practice. Those companies are tied up in a class-action lawsuit from former employees who are suing for lost wages, according to The Verge.