The U.S. Justice Department has struck down agreements that prevented some of the largest tech companies in the world from poaching employees from each other in a settlement today that included heavy hitters like Google, Intel and Apple.

Six major tech companies, including those listed above and Pixar, Intuit and Adobe, agreed among themselves to refrain from cold-calling employees at other companies and attempting to recruit them — a practice that stifles competition for highly skilled workers, according to the Department of Justice.

Apple made deals with Pixar, Adobe and Google, while Google had separate agreements with Intel and Intuit to avoid soliciting employees by phone in an attempt to recruit them, according to a filing made in the lawsuit.

Google responded to the Department of Justice statement, saying there was no evidence that their policy of refraining from cold calls hindered hiring or affected wages. The search giant, just one of the six companies that is under investigation, said that it discontinued its policy in 2009 after the Department of Justice raised concerns.

Cold-calling as a method of recruiting new employees from rival companies, when unrestrained, results in better career opportunities for highly skilled workers, the Department of Justice said. Senior executives of the companies in question created and actively managed the agreements to refrain from cold calling, the department said.

If the proposed settlement is accepted in court, it will place a five-year ban on “no solicitation” agreements that forbid cold-calling and opens the door for wider bans of anticompetitive agreements involving rival companies, including other forms of recruiting.

[Photo: bloomsberries]

VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative enterprise technology and transact. Discover our Briefings.