DreamWorks Agrees to Pay $50 Million to End No-Poaching Suit

  • Studio to cooperate with workers’ class action against Disney
  • Companies accused of anti-competitive ‘gentlemen’s agreement’

Comcast Corp.’s DreamWorks Animation SKG agreed to pay $50 million to resolve claims it colluded with other animation studios to not hire one another’s workers in California, where allegations of no-poaching pacts have plagued technology companies for years.

DreamWorks will cooperate with lawyers for former animators and visual effects employees who are pressing forward with their class-action case against Walt Disney Co. and its Lucasfilm and Pixar units, plaintiffs’ attorneys said in a court filing Monday seeking approval of the accord. Two Sony Pictures units and Blue Sky Studios already have won preliminary approval for settlements totaling $19 million.

The antitrust suit against the California-based companies is based on allegations that they conspired to suppress wages through a “gentleman’s agreement” to not solicit each other’s workers. Apple, Google, Inc., Intel Corp. and Adobe Systems Inc. last year paid $415 million to resolve their part in a similar case that was brought against a group of Silicon Valley technology companies that had been investigated for collusion by the U.S. Justice Department.

In a follow-on case, LG Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. were sued in September over claims they conspired to suppress wages by agreeing not to recruit each other’s employees.

Comcast spokeswoman Jennifer Khoury didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on Monday’s settlement.

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple who figured as a central player in the Silicon Valley case, was also portrayed as a leader of the no-poaching scheme outlined in the Hollywood case when he took over control of Pixar studios. The alleged conspiracy dates back to the mid-1980s, when George Lucas, the founder of Lucasfilm, sold his computer division to Jobs, who had recently left his position as Apple’s CEO.

Lucas, best known for producing the “Star Wars” series with special effects created by his Industrial Light and Magic division, reached an agreement with Jobs’s deputy, Pixar President Edwin Catmull, to not solicit each other’s employees, according to the complaint.

The studios case is Nitsch v. DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., 14-cv-04062, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

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