More fascinating emails continue to trickle out of the Google/Apple/Intel/Adobe wage-conspiracy case in California. In one exchange revealed last week, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt confirmed—in a huff—an extreme measure aimed at preventing Facebook from stealing his company’s employees.
Specifically, Google had instated a policy in November 2007, to provide employees counter-offers within an hour if they received an offer from fast-growing rival Facebook. (Facebook had just raised $240 million from Microsoft, spurning Google in the process.)
The email chain begins with Vijay Gill, a manager in Google’s engineering organization, passing along a note to Bill Coughran, a senior Google engineering executive, and Ivan Ernest, a human resources exec. The message, seemingly from a Google colleague, notes that Google is “open to significantly enhancing the offers to candidates who also have offers from Facebook,” including a one-hour window for counteroffers. “I am disturbed by this policy,” Gill adds.
A few hours later, Coughran sent the email along to Google’s executive management group (EMG) list, adding, “It seems that EMG discussions leak quickly.”
Hours later, Schmidt replied, confirming the one-hour policy that had been announced just 24 hours prior—and his anger: “…we should be embarrassed and disgusted by this leak.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about Google’s extreme reactions against would-be Facebook poaching. TechCrunch founder Mike Arrington reported in 2010 that Google had “put policies in place to ensure that an employee gets a response within 24 hours.”
Whether the actual turnaround at that point was an hour or a day, Arrington’s four-year-old headline seems prescient: “Google Fights Back In Battle For Talent, But May Be Creating A Worse Problem For Itself.” He argues that Google probably should just let its employees go, rather than countering Facebook’s offers so aggressively: “The finger in the dam approach rarely works, and it seems to be affecting morale across Google.”
Morale, in hindsight, seems a small concern compared to the wage-fixing court case Google is now in the middle of. Both sides have approved a $324 million settlement, the Wall Street Journal notes, which US District Judge Lucy Koh could approve any time. The money isn’t much to a company like Google or Apple, but it’s been an embarrassing process.