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Several of the U.S.'s largest technology companies are in advanced talks with the Justice Department to avoid a court battle over whether they colluded to hold down wages by agreeing not to poach each other's employees.
The companies, which include Google Inc., Apple Inc., Intel Corp., Adobe Systems Inc., Intuit Inc. and Walt Disney Co. unit Pixar Animation, are in the final stages of negotiations with the government, according to people familiar with the matter.
The talks are still fluid, these people said, with some companies more willing to settle to avoid an antitrust case than others. If negotiations falter, both sides could be headed for a defining court battle that could help decide the legality of such arrangements throughout the U.S. economy.
Still, there are powerful incentives for both sides to settle the potential civil case before it reaches that stage.
The Justice Department would have to convince a court not just that such accords existed, but that workers had suffered significant harm as a result.
The companies may not want to take a chance in court. If the government wins, it could open the floodgates for private claimants, even a class action by employees. A settlement would allow the Justice Department to halt the practice, without the companies having to admit to any legal violations.
Spokespeople for Google, Apple, Intel, Adobe and Intuit all declined to comment. Pixar had no immediate comment. A Justice Department spokeswoman also declined to comment.
The Justice Department's probe of hiring practices could reach beyond Silicon Valley.
Read more on the Wall Street Journal
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US investment in the Netherlands from 2000 to 2010 was nine times more than US investment in China during the same period. US investment in the UK was more than seven times more, and in Ireland nearly three times more, than in China. (Source: Transatlantic Economy 2011
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