In a 32-page ruling on Friday, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California rejected as too small a proposed $324 million settlement to resolve a class-action antitrust lawsuit involving 64,000 current and former tech workers who accused Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOGL), Intel (INTC) and Adobe Systems (ADBE) of conspiring to not recruit each other’s engineers, driving down wages for five years.
According to court documents, Koh’s order stated that based on “ample evidence of an overarching conspiracy” the total settlement “falls below the range of reasonableness” when compared to last year’s $20 million settlement that Pixar Animation Studios, Lucasfilm, and Intuit Inc. (INTU) reached with tech employees. To get to the same rate, the judge said, a settlement with Google, Apple, Adobe and Intel “would need to total at least $380 million.”
Lawyers for the plaintiffs had been seeking $3 billion in damages. Had a jury awarded that amount, it would have automatically tripled to $9 billion under antitrust law.
Apple and Google declined to comment on Koh’s ruling. Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said the company was “disappointed” by the court ‘s decision. The case will now go to trial unless the parties put together another settlement that meets the judge’s approval.