Pixar backs down on headhunting conspiracy

Pixar, which was once run by Apple messiah Steve Jobs, has backed down from one of his more prouder moments.

Jobs was one of the key players in a deal between Silicon Valley bigwigs to stop staff getting better working conditions. Jobs reasoned that if firms were not allowed to headhunt, then staff would be forced to stay where they were.

This is against the idea that workers would benefit from firms doing well because their skills become more marketable.

Records show that Jobs in particular used the unofficial agreement to put the frighteners on former Google chief executive Eric Schmidt. When an Apple employee defected to Google, Jobs contacted Schmidt and demanded the worker was fired as part of the agreement.

According to PC World, the unofficial agreement is the centre of a US court case, which sees many of Silicon Valley’s top names being accused of taking part. Other defendants in the case include Adobe, Intel and Intuit.

It looks like Jobs’ flagship studio Pixar will not be among them. According to Reuters, Walt Disney’s Lucasfilm and Pixar units have settled the lawsuit.

The settlement was disclosed in a Friday court filing that did not elaborate on terms of the deal.

So far those trying to break the alleged employment cartel have had a rough ride. A US judge in San Jose, California ruled that the lawsuit, brought by five tech employees alleging a broad industry conspiracy, cannot proceed as a class action.

This stopped any plaintiffs having more power to screw large financial settlements than if they were to sue individually.

The backdown follows a ruling in April in which  US District judge Lucy Koh in San Jose found the employees have turned up strong evidence that top executives from those valley stalwarts, including late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, made deals to not lure away each others’ most coveted workers, particularly in the engineering ranks.

It seems that Disney has no interest in carrying on Jobs’ recruiting practices.