Facebook Inc. chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg is scheduled to be questioned in a lawsuit alleging that seven technology companies broke antitrust laws by agreeing to not recruit from each other.
U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh in San Jose, California, Monday issued a ruling allowing a deposition to take place around April 23. Google Inc., Intuit Inc. and Apple Inc. are defendants in the case. Neither Facebook nor Sandberg, who was formerly an executive at Google, are defendants.
The ruling is the latest over information sharing, or discovery, in a lawsuit filed in 2011. The other defendants are Intel Corp. Adobe Systems Inc., Walt Disney Co.’s Pixar animation unit and Lucasfilm Ltd.
Plaintiffs argue their discovery has confirmed that senior officers at the companies personally entered into non- solicitation agreements to eliminate competition for each other’s employees, kept the pacts hidden from the workers, supervised the implementation of the plans and policed each other.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs had asked Koh to let them try to schedule a deposition of Sandberg beyond a March 29 deadline for fact-gathering in the case, saying that Sandberg and Facebook didn’t respond to an earlier subpoena.
Google has produced six documents totaling 13 pages, including two spreadsheets concerning compensation, three calendar entries and Sandberg’s employment agreement with Google, according to a March 29 court filing.
Sarah Feinberg, a spokeswoman for Menlo Park, California- based Facebook, declined to comment on the deposition of Sandberg.
The case mirrors claims the companies settled with the U.S. Justice Department in 2010 after the government alleged that the companies kept do-not-call lists to avoid competitive recruiting, and that such agreements restrained competition, which hurt employees.
Lawyers for the employees have argued that while the settlement with the federal government exposed the illegal behavior and put an end to it, the agreement didn’t compensate the employees who were harmed.
Both sides are waiting for Koh to rule whether the case will proceed as a group lawsuit, with a proposed class of employees including engineers, sous chefs, administrative assistants and others.
The San Jose case is In Re High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, 11-2509, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose). The previous case is U.S. v. Adobe Systems, 10-cv-1629, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).