EBay Inc. (EBAY), the world's largest online marketplace, has been accused by the US and California of violating antitrust laws by agreeing not to hire people working for the gtechnology company Intuit Inc.
Senior executives at EBay and Intuit struck "evolving handshake accords" from 2006 to 2009 to restrict recruiting and hiring each other's workers, according to a complaint by the US Justice Department filed on Friday in federal court in San Jose, California.
The practice allegedly distorted competition for specialised computer engineers and scientists and made it harder for workers to get better, higher-paying jobs.
This agreement harmed employees by lowering the salaries and benefits they might otherwise have commanded, and deprived these employees of better job opportunities at the other company, according to the complaint.
California also sued EBay on Friday in the same court. Intuit, which settled a Justice Department case over hiring practices in 2010, is not named as a defendant in either case.
Intuit, the California-based financial software company that makes TurboTax and QuickBooks, agreed along with Google, Apple and three other technology companies in 2010 to halt agreements under which companies refrained from placing cold calls to lure workers from competitors. The agreements resolved an antitrust lawsuit filed against the companies in Washington. No companies were fined.
The Justice Department's 2010 antitrust investigation focused on recruiting and hiring practices at some of the biggest US technology companies. It said at the time that it would continue to investigate other no-solicitation agreements.
EBay said it would vigorously defend itself against the lawsuits, which the company described as overly aggressive.
"We compete openly for talent in a broad, diverse global market across a range of industries and professional disciplines, and EBay's hiring practices conform to the standards that the Department of Justice has approved in resolving cases against other companies," spokeswoman Lara Wyss said in an e-mailed statement.
Meg Whitman, then CEO at EBay, and Scott Cook, founder and chairman at Intuit, were intimately involved in forming and enforcing the agreements between the companies, Justice Department lawyers said in its complaint.