Silicon Valley’s biggest names—Google, Apple, Intel and Adobe—reached a settlement today in a contentious $3 billion anti-trust suit brought by workers who accused the tech giants of secretly colluding to not recruit each other’s employees. The workers won, but not much, receiving only a rumored $300 million, a small fraction of the billions the companies might have been forced to pay had they been found guilty in a trial verdict.
The criminality that the case exposed in the boardrooms the tech giants, including from revered figures like Steve Jobs who comes off as especially ruthless, should not be jarring to anyone familiar with Silicon Valley. It may shock much of the media, who have generally genuflected towards these companies, and much of the public, that has been hoodwinked into thinking the Valley oligarchs represent a better kind of plutocrat—but the truth is they are a lot like the old robber barons.
Starting in the 1980s, a mythology grew that the new tech entrepreneurs represented a new, progressive model that was not animated by conventional business thinking. In contrast to staid old east coast corporations, the new California firms were what futurist Alvin Toffler described as “third wave.” Often dressed in jeans, and not suits, they were seen as inherently less hierarchical and power-hungry as their industrial age predecessors.