Facebook refused to limit hiring of Google employees, Sandberg says

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, says she declined a plea from Google to limit her company’s hiring of the search-engine giant’s employees.
(Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg )

SAN FRANCISCO -- Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said she declined to limit her company’s hiring of Google employees after being approached by two senior executives at the Internet giant.

Sandberg made the declaration in a filing in San Jose federal court on Friday before a high-profile trial in May that will determine whether Google, Apple, Intel and Adobe illegally agreed not to recruit each other’s employees.

Sandberg and Facebook are not involved in the case, which grew out of a Department of Justice investigation that was settled in 2010.

The plaintiffs are software and hardware engineers, programmers, Web developers and other technology workers who allege their wages were kept artificially low by secret non-solicitation agreements between the companies.


Sandberg worked at Google and was a top executive there until 2008, when she left for Facebook. That year, she received separate calls from two Google executives expressing concern about a large number of Google employees joining Facebook.

According to court files unsealed last week, Sandberg received emails from former colleagues soon after she joined Facebook.

At the time, Google employees were defecting to Facebook in great numbers, escalating tensions between the two companies.

According to the unsealed files, then-Google executive Jonathan Rosenberg told Sandberg in August 2008: “Fix this problem. Propose that you will substantially lower the rate at which you hire people from us. Then make sure that happens.”


Sandberg declined Rosenberg’s request, saying she thought Google didn’t have a blanket non solicitation policy and only limited hiring from companies with which it shared board members.

“I declined at the time to limit Facebook’s recruitment or hiring of Google employees,” Sandberg said in Friday’s filing, which was first reported by CNBC. “Nor have I made or authorized any such agreement between Facebook and Google since that time.”

Representatives of Google and Facebook declined to comment Monday.

The legal case over alleged collusion over the wages of technology workers in Silicon Valley may be expanding.

Over the weekend Pando Daily reported that the case could include dozens of other technology companies and potentially more than 1 million employees.

An initial hearing in the case, which was granted class-action status in October, will be held before U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh on Thursday. Jury selection is scheduled to begin May 27.

Five software engineers filed the lawsuit in 2011, alleging a conspiracy from 2005 to 2009 to limit pay and job movement.

The lawsuit follows a similar probe from the U.S. Justice Department that the companies settled in 2010. That investigation alleged the companies colluded to suppress wages by agreeing not to recruit employees from one another. Under the settlement, the companies agreed not to restrain competition in the labor market for high-tech talent.



Apple, Google, Intel, Pixar to face antitrust lawsuit

Silicon Valley staff-poaching suit is granted class-action status

Google and others reach deal with Justice Department over hiring

Get our weekly California Inc. newsletter