by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 4th 2009 2:14am
The news broke this week that a bunch of big name Silicon Valley companies are under investigation by the Justice Department for their hiring practices and potential antitrust concerns. The specific issue appears to be that the companies may have agreed to not try to poach top execs from certain companies. Apparently there was nothing stopping the employee from getting a job at one of these companies, if they took the initiative -- but the companies wouldn't initiate the attempt. In most cases, the idea was not to poach from partners -- which might just be good business sense (pissing off partners generally isn't a good idea). Where it gets tricky is the accusation that some companies had written agreements not to poach, which could lead to some charges of collusion. Oddly, the NY Times article's title claims that the issue is "unwritten rules" when the details of the article suggest it's not the unwritten, but the written rules that are the problem. There have been studies that suggest that root of Silicon Valley's success was the easy movement of people from job to job -- so if it's true that companies are holding back trying to get the best employees to move around, they may actually be doing a lot more harm to themselves anyway. And, on the whole, it does seem like there's an awful lot of movement between big name companies. Just this week at the Conversational Marketing Summit, one of the speakers had a musical chairs presentation that went on for a long time showing a bunch of execs and how they played musical chairs between Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, AOL, News Corp. and Facebook.
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