Oracle Dodges Suit Over No-Poaching Deals

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Oracle joined Microsoft on Tuesday in successfully dodging an antitrust class action over its agreements not to recruit workers from other tech firms.
     U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh dismissed the suit with prejudice on Tuesday, finding the employees failed to show Oracle entered into any “no-poaching” deals after the four-year statute of limitations clock started ticking in October 2010.
     Lead plaintiff Greg Garrison sued Oracle in October 2014, three days before lead plaintiff Deserae Ryan sued Microsoft on similar antitrust claims.
     Just as she ruled in the suit against Microsoft this past November, Koh again rejected theories that criminal investigations, lawsuits against co-conspirators, alleged concealment of deals and renewing of agreements froze the limitations period.
     “Although plaintiffs allege that Oracle continued to enter into new secret agreements and add companies to the ‘no-hire’ list ‘well into 2012,’ plaintiffs fail to identify a single new agreement after 2009,” Koh wrote in her 51-page ruling.
     Koh found a Justice Department probe into Oracle’s anticompetitive deals from 2009 to October 2014 did not freeze the limitations period. The judge pointed to Ninth Circuit precedent that holds the limitations period begins tolling when the government files a complaint, not when it opens an investigation.
     The DOJ never filed a complaint against Oracle.
     Koh said the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuits against Adobe, Lucasfilm and eBay also failed to stop the clock because none of those complaints mentioned Oracle by name.
     Claims that Oracle lied about its commitment to obeying antitrust laws in public Securities and Exchange Commission filings and its employee handbook were also found insufficient to allege fraudulent concealment.
     “The court is not aware of, and plaintiffs do not cite, any case finding that a defendant’s statements in routine public filings that the defendant obeys antitrust laws and participates in a competitive market alone suffice to show fraudulent concealment, absent other evidence that the defendant attempted to conceal its alleged antitrust behavior,” Koh wrote.
     She also found the employees lacked specifics to support claims that Oracle’s human resources staff misled them about compensation and benefits by hiding the existence of its no-poaching deals.
     The second amended complaint contained no details as “to whom plaintiffs spoke at Oracle, where these conversations took place, the date or time of the alleged conversations, or the content of the conversations,” Koh wrote.
     Koh dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice, finding the employees failed to cure statute of limitations issues in their second amended complaint and that any further amendment would be “futile.”
     Class attorney Bonny Sweeney of Hausfeld and Oracle attorney Daniel Wall of Latham & Watkins, both in San Francisco, did not immediately return phone calls and emails seeking comment on the suit’s dismissal Wednesday afternoon.
     Oracle’s media relations team also did not immediately return an email seeking comment Wednesday.
     Last September, Koh approved a $415-million settlement and $42 million in attorneys’ fees for employees that filed a similar antitrust class action against Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe over their no-poaching agreements.

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