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US Justice Dept. Sues eBay For Anti-Competitive Hiring Practices 66

Posted by timothy
from the scratcha-my-back dept.
McGruber writes "The Associated Press is reporting that the U.S. Justice Department is suing eBay for allegedly agreeing with Intuit not to hire each other's employees. According to the article, 'eBay's agreement with Intuit hurt employees by lowering the salaries and benefits they might have received and deprived them of better job opportunities at the other company,' said acting Assistant Attorney General Joseph Wayland, who is in charge of the Justice Department's antitrust division. The division 'has consistently taken the position that these kinds of agreements are per se (on their face) unlawful under antitrust laws.'"
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US Justice Dept. Sues eBay For Anti-Competitive Hiring Practices

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 16, 2012 @10:51PM (#42009395)

    As a software developer and QuickBooks user I can assure you that no one should hire the Intuit guys anyway.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 16, 2012 @10:53PM (#42009413)

    IBM uses contract employee companies like CDI for disposable employees. CDI and IBM have agreements that limit CDI employee's ability to apply for other positions within CDI and IBM. Would these agreements be illegal as well?

    • They do this because the law allows them to. Do you know why the law is in favor of such shitting? Because the govt would crumble having to pay a fair wage to these folks
      • by AaronLS (1804210) on Friday November 16, 2012 @11:45PM (#42009735)

        Maybe not in the case of CDI/IBM, but otherwise contractors working for the government cost 2x what it would cost them for direct hire(including benefits). They just want the freedom to increase/decrease workforce as needed. It gets around alot of red tape as well in terms of both hiring/firing. If there is a hiring/pay freeze instituted at the state level, but your agency has enough money to hire needed employees, then pay for "services" of an agency. What's ironic is the blindly broad hiring/pay freeze results in agencies wasting money in this case.

    • by Gwala (309968)

      My first guess would say no; and this is an uninformed opinion - but that is probably structured as a non-poach agreement, e.g. IBM is not allowed to poach employees from CDI.

      That does tend to be legal - although the punishment is relatively thin. IBM would only have to pay for a recruiter to find someone of similar calibre to CDI in damages if it ever went to court/arbitration/settlement.

    • by ranton (36917)

      I work for a contracting company, and I cannot imagine taking a full time job at one of the companies that hires my firm. It was my company's marketing that gathered that contact, and for me to snake that out from under them just seems wrong.

      But then again, legally I can't really see any difference between this and and what eBay is being accused of. I honestly cannot figure out what my opinion on this is.

      • This happens all the time though, in fact frequently these positions are marketed to contractors as "contract to hire" (not that it usually happens, that's just a gimmick, I think I saw one contractor turned in 7 years, most are removed and replaced in 1.5 years). The company with the job just wants a disposable employee with a side effect of try-before-you-buy, the employee just wants a job, and the contracting company wants a piece of the action.

        It seems to me that it's perfectly acceptable for you to lea

    • by C0R1D4N (970153)
      Or how about non-compete clauses in general?
      • by guttentag (313541)

        Or how about non-compete clauses in general?

        IANAL, but last I heard it varies by state. There's a good discussion of it here [findlaw.com], but the article is 4 years old.

    • by Chuckstar (799005) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @12:41AM (#42009965)

      The eBay/Intuit agreement (and the other similar agreements that were subject to a settlement a few years ago) were very broad in scope. It might be the breadth that is the issue.

      I know, for instance, that it is legal for a company to agree not to solicit employees of another company for a defined period of time. This is often done as part of M&A transactions, where a company is buying a subsidiary of another company, and doesn't want the seller to just turn around and hire back key personnel. But those are limited in time. Also, the ones I've seen do not limit the ability to hire those people, only the ability to solicit them. So if the employee makes the first contact, all bets are off.

      Another agreement I've seen often is as part of a M&A confidentiality agreement. Example: "You will provide us information about your company and access to key personnel in order to discuss a potential aquisition, in exchange, we agree not to solicit any of those employees for one year."

      The eBay/Intuit agreement, however, is that they will not hire each others' employees for as long as the agreement remains in effect AND that it doesn't matter whether the employee approaches them first.

    • by Tanktalus (794810)

      IBM has agreements like that with most contracting companies. Generally, the way around it is for IBM to pay a finder's fee to the contracting agency if IBM wants to hire the contractor as a regular employee. I've seen it done a few times. Not all contractors are amenable to it, but for those who are, it's a payment to their agency and then hiring can proceed as normal.

  • latin lessons (Score:4, Informative)

    by _peter (54875) on Friday November 16, 2012 @10:57PM (#42009427) Homepage

    per se -- in itself
    prima facie -- on it's face

  • Further reading... (Score:5, Informative)

    by guttentag (313541) on Friday November 16, 2012 @11:19PM (#42009575) Journal
    TFA is a little thin. For those of you just joining us (stares pointedly at Intuit and Ebay, with a glance at HP), it's called "collusion."

    Collusion [wikipedia.org]
    Collusion is an agreement between two or more persons, sometimes illegal and therefore secretive, to limit open competition by deceiving, misleading, or defrauding others of their legal rights, or to obtain an objective forbidden by law typically by defrauding or gaining an unfair advantage. It is an agreement among firms to divide the market, set prices, or limit production. It can involve "wage fixing, kickbacks, or misrepresenting the independence of the relationship between the colluding parties". In legal terms, all acts affected by collusion are considered void.

    Collusion is largely illegal in the United States, Canada and most of the EU due to competition/antitrust law, but implicit collusion in the form of price leadership and tacit understandings still takes place.

    Also known as the opposite of competition, or incompatible with a competitive environment, or simply "anti-competitive."

  • by whoever57 (658626) on Friday November 16, 2012 @11:21PM (#42009593) Journal
    But I thought Meg was in favor of a free market! Just not for employees I suppose. Apparently what's good for the goose is not good for the gander.
    • Maybe she meant "free to collude" rather than compete... after all they both start with 'c'. :)

    • A free market just means the gov't doesn't intrude. I find most libertarians are only in favor of the freedoms they personally like. Heck, even RON PAUL (sorry, Fark meme) was billing the government for travel expenses that his private super pac was footing the bill for and which were probably not work related...
      • by Anonymous Coward

        It's socialism for the megacorporations, and capitalism and poverty for the rest of us. Except that that will tank the economy, and we will have a big reset. Hopefully people will have learnt how to properly identify the right criminals and do away with them by then.

      • by ultranova (717540)

        I find most libertarians are only in favor of the freedoms they personally like.

        All libertarians are only in favor of the freedoms they personally like, otherwise they'd be called anarchists (the state doesn't interfere with anything -> for all intents and purposes the state does not exist).

        Also, at least on Slashdot libertarianism seems to mean a pro-corporate and anti-union position (corporations may collude, workers may not), so it's hard to avoid the conclusion that it's less about a coherent ideol

    • by tompaulco (629533)
      But I thought Meg was in favor of a free market!
      Well, it seems that in a free market, you could walk in to either company and offer your services and be judged based on your skills and price and on their need. An agreement not to hire another companies employees is an illegal restriction of the free market. Unfortunately, 90% or more of companies do it. The company I work for does it. All of the vendors and suppliers have to sign agreements saying they will not hire from my company.
  • by guttentag (313541) on Friday November 16, 2012 @11:33PM (#42009669) Journal
    Intuit was sued by the DOJ before for this, and along with Apple, Google, Intel and Pixar, reached a settlement with DOJ and agreed [findlaw.com] in 2010 to stop doing this. Of course, TFA says the collusion in question took place from 2006 to 2009, so I'm thinking they've already covered this. Unless they kept their collusion with eBay a secret at the time, so it's not covered by the settlement, and now DOJ is going to kick them in the pants for not coming clean about all of their illegal activities and partners. My guess is that now DOJ is going to be on a fishing expedition to find out what other collusion Intuit was hiding.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I was lured to the Intuit complex off the 56 in San Diego by the promise of a Slashdot "15th anniversary party" which really only turned out to be one guerrilla marketer passing out T-shirts. I was also piss-drunk at the time (3pm on Sunday), but even in my extremely inebriated state I was frightened by the interior of the buildings - they were nice but had a cold, low-ceilinged, cramped and boxed-in feeling reminiscent of an inner-city high school or perhaps a mental institution or prison. They were the ar

      • by t0rkm3 (666910)

        LOL... I never worked in the main buildings, just in the data centers as a contractor for INS. I don't know about the cubes and whatnot, but the beer grill out parties on Thursday nights were well catered. (The best beer available was Heineken though)

  • I am here to inform you that eBay and Intuit are the only employers in town.
  • I guess it's kinda nice to see the justice department doing something that'll help, but compared to H1-B this isn't even a itty, bitty itsy bitsy drop in the worlds smallest bucket. Still, it's nice to see the effect of a Democrat in the White house. He can't do much, but he's doing what he can.
  • Ebay steals money from its sellers. I hope DOJ will take notice of this and sue Ebay. I know someone [pisika.com] who did nothing wrong but was accused by Ebay of doing something illegal. Consequently, they stole all the proceeds of his sale on Half.com
  • This is news? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Virtucon (127420) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @02:32AM (#42010339)

    Where has the DOJ been? Oh that's right going after states who pass voter id laws all the while the AG grand stands and panders to ever special interest in the country instead of enforcing our laws. Now they can go after bigger fish and say "hey, lookie what we got right chere!" Yeah, you got two lame ducks. EBay and Intuit? Come on you may as well have gone after Hostess and Wonder Bread. Oh wait, Hostess is out of business now anyway, so they won't put up much of a fight with the DOJ.

    American Airlines, IBM, HP (and the former EDS) and many others, all of them do this and now they're making a point out of EBay and Intuit? Wow, this seems like so 10 years ago when both of these entities mattered. The collusion is rampant and it's meant to keep wages low and remove options for people.

    So here's how it'll play out, the DOG will go to court and lambaste these two titans of industry (I'm still laughing) They'll rail against these companies and make really good press for a couple of weeks. Then they'll reach a settlement deal and EBay and Intuit will pay a fine and say "we're sorry and won't do it again." Yeah right. As long as nobody gets caught and held truly accountable for this kind of crap, it will keep on happening

    Then again you have a right to work wherever you want and they have a right to fire you whenever they want. It's the American way.

  • by dadioflex (854298) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @02:43AM (#42010377)
    I don't even see how there could be a conflict. One is an internet company and the other mainly hunts seals and whales for meat.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm confused, is this different from non-competes? I thought non-competes where standard practice in a lot of area's of business. Sorry for my ignorance

    • I'm confused, is this different from non-competes? I thought non-competes where standard practice in a lot of area's of business. Sorry for my ignorance

      And non-competes are generally illegal as well.

  • My firm is in a joint venture with another, and they explicitly will not hire each others' employees while partnered. Anyone familiar with what the law says in such a case?
  • ... of corporations? I mean, now that companies are considered to be people, shouldn't their rights be weighed equally against those of their workers?
  • By entering into such an agreement they are only hurting each other. The employees have plenty of other places to go.

    It is in the interest of every company to be able to hire whomever best fits the need.

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