A federal judge ruled Friday that alleged collusion between tech giants like Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG), and Intel (INTC) will be going to trial. The story goes that between 2005 and 2009 some of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies had a tacit agreement not to hire each other's engineers. As a result engineer wages were kept low, saving all the companies involved a lot of cash.
The companies were in court last week trying to delay or cancel a civil court case set to begin May 27. The trial and eventual verdict could impact as many as 64,000 workers who were employed at Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe (ADBE) during those five years.
Josh Brown joined Breakout to weigh in on the growing scandal. He thinks the whole thing is a bit overblown.
“To wring your hands over ‘oh my God it’s so terrible that Apple and Google are fighting over engineers'...I mean it’s a very minor issue," he says.
He notes that Wall Street operates in similar ways.
“If you work at one of the large brokerage firms...these guys ended up writing so many millions of dollars in checks to lawyers because they were poaching each others brokers that they essentially built this collusion system where you couldn’t do it anymore.”
Still, while the headlines may suggest otherwise, it’s hard for John Q. Public to sympathize much with, as Brown says, “25-year-olds driving Maseratis” out in Silicon Valley. What makes the case that much more interesting is the fact that it provides a peek into a time when Google and Apple were not at each others throats.
“There was a time,” Brown notes, “when the CEOs [of Apple and Google] were on each others boards. They were very collegial. Google wasn’t doing anything with mobile and Android yet and I think the idea was, maybe they weren’t trying to collude but they were trying to be a bit more collegial, in terms of ripping engineers out of each others companies. Then they find ‘hey ya know what, it turns out we’re competing almost everywhere...this can’t work anymore.’ It’s a different era now and I don’t think this is a problem.”
Problem or not, it still may have been illegal and that question will begin to be answered next month at the trial that, for now at least, is to go forward as planned.