Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg is the latest Silicon Valley insider being deposed in a long-running antitrust case against Apple, Google, Intuit, and others. Bloomberg reports that Judge Lucy Koh has scheduled Sandberg to answer questions about her time at Google, one of several companies accused of making "gentleman's agreements" to avoid competing for employees and keep salaries artificially low. Neither Facebook nor Sandberg are defendants in the case, but plaintiffs hope her testimony could shed light on the extent to which executives were involved in crafting no-hire agreements. Earlier this year, Koh ordered that Apple CEO Tim Cook be deposed as well.
The Department of Justice has already settled a suit against the companies: in 2010, it ordered them to drop any no-hire agreements. But employees later brought their own lawsuit, seeking compensation for the wages they say they lost while the policies were in place. So far, court documents have apparently revealed a broad-ranging but informal policy to avoid reaching out to employees at other companies, or to avoid hiring them even when they applied of their own accord. One document suggested that Steve Jobs personally emailed Eric Schmidt to complain about Google recruiting an Apple engineer, resulting in the recruiter's firing. While employees wait to see whether their case is granted class-action status, the Department of Justice brought a new no-hire suit last year, accusing eBay of entering into such an agreement with Intuit.