Disney, Sony, DreamWorks seek to throw out anti-poaching lawsuit

Mon Jan 12, 2015 4:49pm EST
 
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By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - Walt Disney Co, Sony Corp and DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc urged a federal judge to throw out a antitrust lawsuit accusing them of conspiring not to poach each other's animators in order to keep wages down.

The defendants told U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, that the plaintiff animators took too long to sue by waiting until five years after the U.S. Department of Justice in 2009 began probing recruiting practices at Silicon Valley and other technology companies.

In a Friday night filing, the defendants also called it "implausible" to believe they would collude to suppress wages after the federal probe began, and after several companies including Disney had settled related private litigation.

"The court might ask what, exactly, these plaintiffs have uncovered that was somehow missed by the industrious High-Tech plaintiffs," the companies said. "The short answer is: nothing."

Daniel Small, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, declined immediate comment on Monday, saying he had yet to review the defendants' filings.

Blue Sky Studios, a unit of 21st Century Fox Inc, is also a defendant. Lighting artist Georgia Cano, character effects artist Robert Nitsch and production engineer David Wentworth are the named plaintiffs.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of having illegally suppressed animators' wages since 2004 by agreeing not to cold call employees, alerting each other to hiring offers, and agreeing not to offer more pay in response to counteroffers.

Disney's Lucasfilm and Pixar units, and Intuit Inc settled similar claims covering other workers for a combined $20 million, while Apple Inc, Google Inc, Intel Corp and Adobe Systems Inc reached their own $324.5 million settlement last May.   Continued...

 
The entrance gate to The Walt Disney Co is pictured in Burbank, California February 5, 2014. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni