Sandberg Delay in Lawsuit Deposition Must End, Judge Says

Lawyers who want to interview Facebook Inc. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg as part of lawsuit alleging that seven technology companies broke antitrust laws should seek a court order compelling her to cooperate, a federal judge said.

U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh in San Jose, California, told plaintiffs’ lawyers that they need to “bring to a close” Sandberg’s deposition after Sandberg’s attorneys resisted a subpoena. Koh ordered a hearing to resolve the matter after learning today that a similar proceeding set for last month with a magistrate judge didn’t take place.

“I think you’re going to get some hours with her, so why are you waiting?” Koh asked Kelly Dermody, a lawyer for the employees. “I don’t see any point in delaying this any further. Set the hearing and get a ruling,” Koh added. “Either you need her or you don’t.”

Defendants in the 2011 case include Google Inc., where Sandberg was formerly an executive, Apple Inc., Intuit Inc., Intel Corp., Adobe Systems Inc., Walt Disney Co.’s Pixar animation unit and Lucasfilm Ltd. Neither Facebook nor Sandberg is a defendant. Plaintiffs’ lawyers contend senior officers at the companies personally entered into non-solicitation agreements to eliminate competition.

Sarah Feinberg, a spokeswoman for Menlo Park, California-based Facebook, declined to comment today on the Sandberg deposition.

2008 Hiring

Sandberg was hired as COO of Facebook in 2008 and appointed as the company’s first female director in June 2012. She is also a director of Walt Disney.

Before joining Facebook, Sandberg was vice president of global online sales and operations at Google.

Dermody told the judge today she’s been working with Sandberg’s lawyers to get questions answered without need for a deposition.

“We have been working very cooperatively to see if it can be avoided,” Dermody said.

Lawyers for the employees said a March 22 deposition of Google Chief Executive Officer Larry Page and a March 25 deposition of Intuit executive Alex Lintner confirmed Sandberg’s “relevance” to the antitrust case.

“Google believes that Ms. Sandberg is unlikely to offer any testimony that would be admissible or lead to admissible evidence,” defense lawyers said in a March 29 court filing.

The San Jose case is In Re High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, 11-cv-02509, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose). A previous case is U.S. v. Adobe Systems, 10-cv-01629, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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