Apple’s Tim Cook will shortly be hearing a question something like that, as Justice Lucy Koh has ordered him to appear in court to give a deposition regarding alleged antitrust violations. Apple is one of a list of companies, including Intuit, Adobe, Google, and Pixar, that are being accused of agreeing not to recruit each other’s employees.
The case has been ongoing, believe it or not, since late 2010, when the Department of Justice required the tech companies to nix those agreements and reached a settlement with them.
According to the DOJ, the anti-poaching agreements reached back as far as 2005 for Apple and Adobe, 2006 for Apple and Google, and 2007 for Apple and Pixar. The settlement at the time prohibited the companies from “entering, maintaining or enforcing any agreement that in any way prevents any person from soliciting, cold calling, recruiting, or otherwise competing for employees.”
The current lawsuit is a follow-on action brought by employees who claim that the companies’ illegal agreements harmed their employment prospects. And while Cook was not Apple’s CEO at the time, Bloomberg reports that Justice Koh told Apple lawyers that since Steve Jobs was copied on emails about the practice, she found it hard to believe that Cook would not have been consulted as well.
There’s currently no timetable for Cook’s deposition, but Google’s Eric Schmidt will be deposed on February 20, and Intel’s Paul Otellini will be grilled in the next few weeks.
If Apple and the other tech companies lose the lawsuit, which is being brought employees as varied as engineers and chefs, they would be liable for additional salary and compensation for the affected staff.