"...brought charges against the companies"
They should have been indicting both, or just the executives for their explicit role in this criminal behavior. I really detest the lack of individual accountability in all these cases when we deal with large companies. If this was a couple of small, local competitors who were the only two [whatever] in the area and they did this, I guarantee you the owners would be individually indicted.
1. "Just following orders" isn't now and has never been a valid excuse
2. Go after the coercers or modify our understanding of liability to allow those targeted to make the argument that their superiors deserve to repay them every bit of penalty they owed.
Really, in the modern world, just sue someone and tell them they're on the hook but they'll be allowed to sue whoever is responsible for their portion of the responsibility and watch this all work itself out quickly.
Edit: They made a minor settlement and there was a lawsuit that got a tiny amount of press.
Edit 2: there was not even a slap on the wrist legally speaking:
"The proposed settlement, which if accepted by the court will be in effect for five years, prohibits the companies from engaging in anticompetitive no solicitation agreements. "
Yes it is, see: https://definitions.uslegal.com/c/corporate-immunity/
That said..I agree with the spirit of your post. The only officers that cannot receive corporate immunity are the CEO and CFO - they can be held liable in criminal and civil litigation.
A person at Apple might not know why they can't hire someone from Google. For all they know it could have been ordered over apple trying to steal Google trade secrets as part of a settlement. Lots of possible reasons why it could be legal. The employee just does not necessarily have the knowledge. So they could make a defense that assumed their employer was acting in good faith.
It's pretty much impossible to prove good faith in the instances of death, and theft. Generally, such things are reserved for governments either through war or (criminal executions) or property seizure. If your employer was the government you may be able to make a good faith defense if it was related to your job and it turns out the government was violating the law.
Also keep mind it's a defense not an immunity. Also the more severe action the harder it is for there to be a lawful reason. There are very few instances were someone could legally kill someone vs not hire someone. It's like orders of magnitude different.
Why aren't those who are tasked with enforcing the law enforcing the law?
That's not true. Just look at Lt. William Calley.
He didn't serve additional time due to other technical issues in his prosecution.
"Howard Callaway, Secretary of the Army, was quoted in The New York Times in 1976 as stating that Calley's sentence was reduced because Calley honestly believed that what he did was a part of his orders—a rationale that contradicts the standards set at Nuremberg and Tokyo, where following orders was not a defense for committing war crimes."
 Marshall, Burke; Goldstein, Joseph (2 April 1976). "Learning From My Lai: A Proposal on War Crimes". The New York Times. p. 26.
Sure sounds like an excuse to me. Now that I think about it, you're not splitting hairs, you're just flat out wrong at best.
So, excusing part of an action due to a coercion to follow actions is valid, but every time we talk about this scenario in the real world you're going to have more options, maybe you doubt your captor would actually shoot both of you - in that case shooting your friend is back to mostly being your decision - the issue occurs when this grey story is converted to black and white and people paint themselves falsely as being unwilling participants. In WW2 US soldiers could have refused when asked to participate in concentration camps, it would have been severely inconveniencing and that counts for something, but they chose the easy route and that is a perfectly valid guilt.
 There is a rather sound argument to be made that evil and culpability is a false construct and that we should refuse to punish any bad actors beyond the point of discouraging recidivism. If there is a common good that we all share as a "known truth" then deviations from that truth can be considered to be impairments about seeing the truth and comprehending it which would lead any deviations from that truth to be understood as a need to enlighten their view of the truth. It's quite an interesting philosophical path to head down.
> Guantánamo leadership wanted to understand the legal gymnastics that would be required to implement a program of their own. “Torture has been prohibited by international law, but the language of the statutes is written vaguely,”
> Bush Administration lawyers had taken the position that “enemy combatants” could be held indefinitely, without trials, and that in order for something to qualify as “torture” it “must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.”
The United States Senate ratified, and President Reagan signed the The U.N. Convention Against Torture, which states that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”
No amount of legal hand waving by the Bush administration can justify what was done.
Likewise, there is no excuse for the Obama administration refusing to prosecute the crimes that occurred.
As Obama put it, "We tortured some folks."
He just refused to prosecute those guilty of ordering and carrying out that torture, despite our treaty obligation to do so.
In other words, do you really think such people got off easy before the Nuremberg trials? If anything, much worse has happened to them throughout history, because the kings and dictators didn't have to put them through a judicial process.
 _sigh_ Oliver North, honestly America... why did you never... eh.
Remember, Guantanamo also had taxi drivers and aid workers in it. How many of them are you willing to torture in order to find the terrorist you've captured and maybe get some information that might help stop a future terrorist plot? The hypothetical of capturing a top general with a tight deadline provides a terrible intuition when it comes to torture.
But that is exactly the kind of intuition Rumsfeld et al wanted people to be thinking about, in order to justify torture^W enhanced interrogation techniques.
> The answer isn't grey, it's black and white. The answer is always YES to doing what it takes to save one's family.
You didn't really need to make such an absolute point, but you did.
Right, so you bring in Hanns Scharff.
They end up taking credit when things go well, and they might look bad when things go poorly, but they essentially never get held criminally liable. Nice work if you can get it.
Think of a group of friends who go out for dinner. When the group grows, you generally need to set rules to avoid folks stuffing on tips or itemizing their bill to save a buck.
Usually when a group grows to a certain size, somebody will decide that rather than chipping in $30, because they "just had a salad", they'll toss in $12.95 for the salad, skip tax and tip and disappear.
I am fascinated by the way "fitness landscapes" manifest in companies OUTSIDE the financial fitness of the company's trade. People often act like trade fitness is the only realm where we compete in capitalism, but there are so many more.
Moat fitness for a company doesn't benefit their trade at all. Customers don't benefit when you kill a competitor, but you do.
Similarly PowerPoint doesn't benefit the customer or the business. It's a tool for employee theater, using it makes employees appear less fit to be fired.
And I like your point that unaccountability fitness is also an existential competition for executives.
I wish there were a big list of these for me to ponder.
This becomes more stark when you compare powerpoint with another part of Microsoft Office: Excel. Excel is actually amazing software. Innumerable small businesses are basically run through Excel. Excel is truly user empowering software that lets lay-people exploit the power of their computer to solve real problem.
Compared to Excel, powerpoint is just sad. In theory it keeps people in the audience of any presentation awake, but in reality it fails at even that. Excel empowers users to solve problems, while powerpoint is little more than an emotional crutch for people who are nervous in front of crowds.
The problem with PP is not PP, but that most people do not know how to give a presentation.
It has other uses but... Have you not seen what I describe? That would be a useful data point for me if true.
Where I work Power Point is mainly used to make presentations that are easy to read on a projector screen (as it should be used).
On many places it seems to be used as a general document writer application ... so what we emotionaly associate with Power Point might differ alot.
This idea overwhelms me when I read the newest filings and indictments of pharmaceutical companies in the opioid crisis. A corporation, fundamentally, cannot "learn lessons" like people do. It is a collection of incentives, with men inside directed or manipulated by those incentives. If gently nudging 47,000 people a year to kill themselves with overdoses would create more revenue for the corporation, after lawsuit settlements, than not, they would likely do it all over again. Even if you change the men making the decisions - "Finding more moral men" is not a plan.
Executives must have skin in the game, because the possible upside to their career at the highest levels of American business are too great to hope they'll take a moral stand. The potential upside for Richard Sackler, and John Kapoor, and Steve Jobs is so high (Massive bonuses, stock prices), and the potential downside so low (They are fired, with a generous golden parachute), they are willing to take the chance they'll get away with it. The most likely outcome is that attorneys will get rich, and nothing much else.
The only solution to †his type of white collar crime and leadership malfeasance is to make executives, the individual human beings, feel a tinge of reptilian fear in their gut that they may go to prison and the livelihood of their families could be put in danger.
I couldn't agree more, and that analysis applies to all systems of human interaction, not just corporations. I wish people would use that framework to understand everything, specifically government.
In the interim I would be willing to settle on significant punitive damages. Eg. Make getting caught very expensive and those corporate nudges will start nudging in the directions of protecting employees, consumers, etc.
if we're all whistleblowers, people high up the chain will fear having the whistle blown on them. don't just leak illegal things, leak immoral things.
grassroots transparency. do it anonymously if you have to. hold your bosses accountable.
But bringing charges against a company is important. Boards of directors are supposed to, well, direct the executives, not look the other way while they break the law and abuse their employees.
The way to encourage this is to hit the company, hard, right in the wallet.
But if I only get to choose one to charge, I go the individual route any day of the week because it reduces/removes the moral hazard of getting to shift your criminal activity to an intangible, legal entity like a corporation. Sure, you'd never get the $435M settlement from these people, but once everyone knows the government is coming after them personally, I would bet my last dollar that this type of crap virtually never happens again.
How do they enforce this agreement?
Reminds me of Phoebous cartel agreeing to produce lightbulbs below certain lifetime. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoebus_cartel
>If this was a couple of small, local competitors who were the only two [whatever] in the area and they did this, I guarantee you the owners would be individually indicted.
No. 100% NO. I guarantee you that the regulators wouldn't care. And if they did care, the 'local competitors' would get AT BEST a slap on the wrist like a strongly worded letter with a time-frame or MAYBE a fine (if that). There would be no indictments.
I work with regulators all the time (FDA, Health Canada), and they will work with you to get you under compliance. Consider the fact that all companies are under a large amount of legal and regulatory constraints and chances are every company is doing something against some law or some regulation (knowingly or unknowingly), and you can see that as long as what you did didn't result in undue hardship (though I'm sure you'll try to claim that this was an egregious action - I disagree) and you fix your behaviour, you'll be fine.
Unless of course an indictment is the politically determined goal. E.g. that one small Chinese bank that got screwed for the lending bubble that popped in '08.
Sure, as long as they are doing so in good faith. An act like this is clearly not in any sort of good-faith attempt to be in compliance with the law. It's obviously illegal. I would expect (hope?) that regulators and law enforcement would act swiftly and with much more than strongly worded letters and small fines for anyone who does this.
Yes, you are correct that I would definitely claim that this was an egregious action. If people are conspiring to limit the employment prospects and potential income of others and are doing so in a manner that violates the law - yeah that's pretty f'ed in my book and they should, in my opinion, be subject to the harshest punishment the law allows for these instances.
My wife works in philanthropy, and one of her jobs is investing in homeless shelters. We were talking the other day about how the Bay Area's housing/homelessness crisis is a direct consequence of the collapse of the high-tech wage-fixing cartel. Before 2010, the wage distribution from one of these huge companies was that founders and VCs would make billions, ~1000 early employees would end up with millions, and the rest of the employees live comfortable upper-middle-class lifestyles. The ~1000 employees who could cash out pre-IPO stock options would bid up prices in Hillsborough/Atherton/PacHeights/Woodside to ~$5M, but the rest of the Bay Area would be priced at what an ordinary professional could afford. After the cartel broke, the compensation structure changed so we have ~100K engineers each making ~$300-400K/year. That's enough to buy all the available housing inventory in the region. So now house prices in Mountain View and Sunnyvale go from $800K -> $2.4M, and you must be a dual-tech-income family to afford a house.
I say this not to imply that the cartel was a good thing (cartels are bad, and I'd much rather the solution be greater wage equality for everyone and building more housing so everyone can stay in the area), but to highlight the problem of unintended consequences. I've seen many people ask "Why don't companies hire remote workers at Silicon Valley wages?" and in the same breath say "Because I would never move to the third-world hellhole that the Bay Area has become", not realizing that if they did hire remote workers, the same thing would happen in their communities. Inflation is the flip side of higher wages; when everybody gets paid more, everything costs more.
This just proves that the housing crises was the same before. A regular middle-class income cannot afford an $800k home. The problem is the same before and after: there isn't enough supply for people who want homes.
Until you look at sales numbers and supply, your analysis is meaningless. Increased wages don't make housing prices increase.
>not realizing that if they did hire remote workers, the same thing would happen in their communities.
Again, this is bullshit. Google could hire 10,000 remote employees at SV wages in somewhere like the Detroit area and it would have a negligible impact on housing prices because the supply is so large.
Remember, techies still make up a tiny percentage of the bay area population. 1% of the population being flush with cash should have absolutely zero impact on a healthy housing market.
1% of the population being flush with cash has virtually no effect on a housing market where 5% of the housing stock turns over every year. It has a very large effect when < 1% of the housing stock turns over. If people start seeing an effect, they have every incentive not to turn their house over while its value is still going up. Right now, Mountain View has 111 homes for sale in a city of 80,000. Sunnyvale has 156 in a city of 150,000. Cupertino has 56 in a city of 40,000, San Francisco has 706 in a city of a million.
Realistically, if these big tech companies offered full remote work (which they actually do, if you've been at the company long enough, but a relatively small portion of the employees meet the tenure & job performance requirements), you wouldn't get 10,000 remote employees in Detroit. You'd get 100,000 remote employees who are free to move around the U.S. to whichever city they prefer most. It's highly likely they will clump in cities that are desirable for techies - Seattle, Portland, Boulder, Austin, Boston, NYC, Pittsburgh, Raleigh-Durham. All except the last 2 are already getting their own version of a mini-housing-crisis, but not to the extent that the Bay Area is.
That's nonsense. There's a severe shortage of housing in Silicon Valley despite the fact that there's an abundance of housing in most of the country. Hiring remote workers means that you're hiring all around the country/world and people can move, not hiring in any one community. Also, hiring remotely means you can pay much less than Silicon Valley compensation because landlords aren't leeching an enormous bulk of it.
Silicon Valley could solve its housing problem tomorrow if it fixed its ultra-restrictive zoning laws, ended Prop 13, and built a ton of apartments. It won't do that because the people in power place the interest of wealthy landlords above that of the average people who live there.
Perhaps 09-10 was a bit of an aberration because it was the middle of the foreclosure crisis and housing prices bottomed out then. I guess another big "thing" is parents (particularly Asian ones) paying the down payment for their kids - 2 of the 4 coworkers I'm thinking of had that help, and one had a minor stock-option windfall from joining a company right before Intuit bought it.
Today, CA’s population is 40 million & we build 80K homes/year.
So our population nearly tripled while housing production dropped by over 2/3.
And people wonder why housing is so expensive."
> By one estimate from the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the state needs to build 1.8 million units over the next seven years just to keep pace with population growth
You need to build about 257k just to keep up with growth, not to address any sort of shortage. This to me should sound like a builder's gold rush. Why are builders not flocking to CA to build? Are there some stringent set of regulations that greatly reduce the economic feasibility? Is this Prop 13 proving to be a failure?
NIMBYs. Builders want to build, but the people who already own won't let them in most cases. I live in Cupertino. They want to build 2000 units next to my house. Most of neighbors are against it because it will "change the character of the neighborhood". That is true, it will. But I'll be the farmers who lived here in the 1960s said the same thing when all of our houses were built as the farmers sold their land.
The main difference this time is that the current residents can't get rich selling their land because the developers want to build up, not out.
CA tried to solve this with SB 827, which would force upzoning near transit. Sadly, it was poorly written and failed to pass, but it was a good idea. It would have forced pretty much all of San Francisco to allow building medium size buildings in place of existing single family homes. And a lot of the rest of the Bay Area too.
Plus people exercising their right to let things happen or not happen on land and electing to do what is in their own best interest sounds fine to me and nothing to be vilifying. It sounds like to me the "NIMBY" finger pointers are just upset that low cost housing isn't built in neighborhoods they want to live in -- that is, it is being portrayed as some altruistic goal but really has self interest in mind.
Even if I conceded your point about NIMBYism, it may explain a very small part of the problem, but it absolutely does not explain why builders are not flocking to a state with a 117k/yr housing shortfall to figure it out.
That 117k/yr shortfall is not evenly spaced. All the jobs growth (and therefore the need for housing) is localized in the cities. They can build 200,000 units in the central valley where there is a ton of land, but no one would go there because there are no jobs, and it would be a 3 hour commute each way to the city.
The only solution is to build up, not out. We've already done all the building out that we can. And the NIMBYs are blocking the "up" growth because they want their cities of single family homes.
This is mostly a problem for coastal California too because land is limited and expensive. In inland California a developer can just buy and build someplace else.
I've seen regulations brought up as a reason why there isn't much new construction, but other states with similar building code/environmental regulations don't seem to have the same problems.
The exception to this IMO are zoning regulations. When those limit high density housing, eg condos/apartments, they can serve to substantially increase home prices. But, that's assuming builders are willing to build enough units fast enough to actually reduce unit prices, and they've consistently shown they will not do that.
Prop 13 could contribute somewhat too, but I imagine it's effect is also much smaller than private equity and builders limiting supply.
However, I don’t think that’s the state or federal government’s responsibility to change. If American government is truly to be “of the people, by the people”, then the people’s decisions at the local government level ought to be respected, including letting them suffer the consequences of bad choices.
If anything, the local zoning issues should be fought via campaigns to persuade local voters of better approaches. Fight a bad idea with a better idea. Not every local policy problem should be fixed with a new law from the state or federal legislation, or with federal/state funding incentives.
The people voting NIMBY don't suffer any consequences though. VCs and big tech companies are happy to throw money away on higher salaries. Prop 13 keeps property taxes low for existing homeowners. The only people who actually suffer are those forced into homelessness and (to a lesser extent) those paying ever-higher rents for aging housing.
In the end, the only thing that prevents housing prices/bubbles, is denser desirable residential areas.
There might be other factors, but one is definitely NOT money distribution schemes from the top 1% to the top 10%.
I know a number of pre-IPO Googlers, as well as a couple folks who have struck it rich with startups. For the most part, they own their own (pretty nice) home, and have little interest in owning other homes. A couple owned double homes, a big suburban one in the South Bay and either a condo in SF or a beach home in Santa Cruz that they could stay at for weekend getaways. One guy owned homes near every Google office that he would regularly travel to, but since they're in different cities, they don't do much for Bay Area real estate prices.
For the most part, people who got rich in tech tended to invest fairly conservatively in conventional index funds etc, and do a bit of dabbling in angel investing on the side. (Another unfortunate unintended consequence of the huge Silicon Valley wage increases is the near-collapse of the individual angel funding market; it used to be someone could write a check for $100K and sustain a founding team for a year or more, but that's increasingly difficult with Bay Area housing prices.) That makes perfect sense: another cardinal rule of investing is to stick to what you know. People who go into real estate because they've heard real estate is a good investment tend to get slaughtered; like any capital market, there's a lot of subtlety to knowing where, when, how much, and how to buy. If your passion in life is software, these details are going to be terribly boring, and you probably won't be much good at them.
I also know a number of landlords. Interestingly, this group is largely disjoint from the people who struck it rich with tech startup options. They are largely ordinary high-paid professionals who are comfortable with leverage. They might use their salaries (and perhaps a little inheritance) to buy a duplex, pay that down a bit, then use the rental income to justify another loan on a small apartment block, fund the mortgage with cash flow from that, pay down principal, etc. The entry into becoming a landlord is made significantly easier if you're making $300-400K/year than if you're making $100-125K.
(Interestingly, duplexes seem underpriced in Mountain View right now - you can sometimes buy an old 3/2 duplex for less than a ritzy 3BR condo. That indicates to me that a number of home buyers today have no interest in becoming landlords.)
I've spent plenty of years renting apartments from investment properties owned by rich people as well, but every single one of them has been a rich person (or corporation) who borrowed money from a bank to buy a multi-family property, not someone who cashed out a startup and invested the proceeds in real estate.
Otherwise everything else makes sense.
In that situation, relaxed lending standards and easy money from the Fed allowed a ton of money to flow into residential real estate.
Even though there's still easy money from the Fed, lending standards have tightened since then, and builders and private equity seem to be effectively limiting supply to keep home prices high.
Weird that this is a problem in Vancouver, Toronto, etc. The larger trend that you're ignoring is that global capital finds real estate in these areas to be good investments compared to their domestic options for storing value.
Instead of competing locally or domestically for real estate, people in the US, Canada, etc are competing with the richest people on the planet for a slice of the pie.
Inflated housing costs are a worldwide phenomenon, you'll see a very similar story in Sydney, London, Tokyo and other places so I very much doubt the root cause is anything to do with the bay area. It might be worse there given the amount of money flowing in, but it's a much bigger problem.
Dear Aaron Peskin,
I live in Supervisorial District 3, at ... . You represent me and my neighbors in your position on the SF Board of Supervisors. Your work is very important. I have lived in SF for 6 years and have seen the housing market get more and more expensive while the city's businesses have grown. Economically, the city is prospering and adding many jobs which bring workers to the city every day. Unfortunately, the city has not added enough housing for these people. Here are the numbers:
- In 2011, SF jobs increased 2% (see  page 5) and housing increased 0.07% (see  page 4).
- In 2012, SF jobs increased 5% (see  page 5) and housing increased 0.4% (see  page 4).
- In 2013, SF jobs increased 5% (see  page 5) and housing increased 0.9% (see  page 4).
- In 2014, SF jobs increased 5% (see  page 5) and housing increased 1% (see  page 5).
- In 2015, SF jobs increased 5% (see  page 5) and housing increased 1% (see  page 5).
The 2016 reports should appear at  when they are available.
I took Econ 101 in college and learned about the Law of Supply and Demand. It's clear to me that SF's housing crisis is caused by demand growing much faster than supply. The city has enacted many policies and programs to boost the economy, creating more jobs. It has not done enough to make places for all of those workers to live. It's an imbalance of epic proportions.
Fixing this situation is the responsibility of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. You are our elected member of the board. Please tell me what you are doing to increase the housing supply.
Another example of (usually giant) companies deciding to risk breaking the law because its cheaper in the long run to do so.
Settlements go to the plaintiffs, not the authorities. Plaintiffs have to agree to the settlement offer.
The plaintiffs could have gone to trial over this matter. They chose not to because fundamentally they must have perceived that the guaranteed settlement money was better than the risk that they walk away empty-handed. If the case was a slam dunk, the settlement would have been higher or they would have just gone to trial.
Based on what I've heard about current salaries for in-demand people, I think it's safe to say that any depressing effect on software engineers' salaries is long gone?
And if not, and this is what holding down salaries looks like, imagine what the housing market would be like without it.
> I think it's safe to say that any depressing effect on software engineers' salaries is long gone?
Every problem can be solved with one level of indirection. At scale, all of the big tech report their salary stats to survey firms who "aggregate" them and give it back to them. Yup.
You're OK with them paying you less because you still got paid well by some standard? You (and as a result many other people) would be making more both in the past and today if they hadn't colluded.
For at least some subset of those affected by this collusion the salary lost will make a significant difference in their families' and their own quality of life either now or in the future.
And as for the people theoretically adversely affected, you'd have to figure out who they are, which wouldn't be easy, since it's people who were in demand enough that they might have started a bidding war.
There is not much more justice to be had in this case. If you're interested in pursuing justice, why not focus on current problems with identifiable victims?
And reading your comments on this page, I have to ask: are you representing nobody's opinion but your own, on your own terms?
You can see this going on today with autonomous cars increasing salaries for engineers working on that problem, which has had knock-on effects for machine learning engineers and top tier software engineers in general.
As a Google employee, you were especially shafted by the settlement. Google's compensation structure at the time had a significant performance bonus component, even for low performers, but the settlement distribution was allocated based on base salary, so employees at companies with smaller bonus compensation got a disproportionate amount of the settlement.
These are not in any way, shape or form arguments or defences for these practices.
I still think this is a better argument than people arguing on behalf of hypothetical others they don't know anything about. One data point is better than zero. If you want to pursue justice, find a current problem with some identifiable victims.
> I still think this is a better argument than people arguing on behalf of hypothetical others they don't know anything about. One data point is better than zero.
Harh, harh. I must admit, I know nothing about a lot of things. Thanks for sharing your viewpoint however, it grows my knowledge by at least one :)
My main point I'll make is simple -- you were victim of wage depression, it was found out and 'fixed' because it was illegal, and you benefited -- precisely because you were an identifiable victim. Now, imagine if you 'benefited' X to (X+Y) years earlier. Wouldn't you have retired earlier -- if that's your desirable outcome?
The reason it makes sense to settle something like this is that it's a bunch of what-ifs and would be hard to prove either way. How important is recruiting for getting people to switch jobs when it's well known you can get a higher salary from job-hopping and some people already do it? Particularly since there is also competition from other companies not in on it, and many people ignore recruiters.
It's never going to be clear whether the settlement was overly generous (a bit of unearned money for us) or whether we would have done much better if it had never happened, so the settlement should have been higher. The illegal collusion stopped, so I guess that's successful government action? Since the market for software engineers was and still is pretty robust, it seems like you could just as easily argue that it was a big success or that it made little difference.
It just seems weird to question the settlement now. Would you want to re-argue a settlement for some bankers who supposedly got screwed a decade ago? Aren't there more important injustices in the world that are still going on?
It is pretty clear when you look at the revenue per employee numbers at some of these 'digital product' companies (specifically Google and Facebook), that rank and file employees are not sharing equally with management in the returns.
That is not to say that pay is bad, or that wage theft is going on (extreme positions), employees in California at least are at will and can quit at any time to offer their services to another player. The regulatory requirement though is to identify and prevent collusion between those players in keeping salaries low.
Wait, but isn't this situation actually making them getting hired at other players much more difficult due to the collusion?
I hate having recruiters call me. It's actively annoying. Having only Facebook recruiters call me was strictly better than the alternative that all major tech company recruiters cold call me, which started happening right after this broke.
I'm totally in favor of distributing more profits for all enterprises to workers, tech workers included, but "we agreed to not annoy one another's workers, but we're happy to hire when they apply" isn't really the story people tell. But that was my (and it sounds like your) experience of this.
Managers at Google don't make much more and in some cases don't make more than the SWEs they manage. Did you mean to say shareholders?
This ignores things like truly discretionary cash bonuses and one-time stock grants which exist, but I'd have no visibility into.
Having played at that level my experience was that generally they start at 100% of your 'base' salary and go up from there. Much of the knobs are intentionally opaque.
This is not about backroom agreements to artificially keep wages down, but about weighing the pro's and con's any particular action which could derail important projects.
If the employee is worth more than the risks of poaching them, then do so. If not, it would be foolhardy to do so.
So you get busted doing something illegal and walk away with a 2.5Billion in your pocket and 0 jail time. How do you expect execs to not do this all the time?
My guess is the executives who orchestrated this got a big bonus as a result. And why wouldn't they? They optimized for the corporation's good. How do we collectively start incentivizing not being evil like this?
1. Sure it's only one data point to extrapolate off of but anecdotally hearing that people were paid $100-150k in SF while this was going on is a substantial amount of wage suppression given that those same people employed now would be making $300-500k at those same companies without blinking an eye.
Also you are conflating base salary with total comp in your example.
Of course my math is back of the envelope and nothing to go by but it definitely hints at the massive discrepancy.
To your point about salary/comp, Netflix is at least one example of a company that allows (allowed?) comp in the form of 100% salary.
That's not accurate. The agreement was about recruiters cold-calling each other's employees. Employees were free to reach out on their own between companies. Workers routinely switched companies while the agreement was in effect.
I still think it was bullshit, but it wasn't quite as egregious as the article makes it sound.
Disclaimer: I was one of the affected employees, and got a share of the settlement.
That shouldn't be used to diminish how vast of a deal this was. But I generally agree with you.
FWIW, I didn't feel particularly underpaid at the time, given that I was making way more than I'd ever had at any other point in my life, although I was relatively junior then and didn't have a good grip on the market. It ended up just being a bonus for essentially no effort on my part. I don't hold any major personal antipathy towards any part of the process.
You'll even find in the comments here that many of the affected employees themselves feel they got at worst a fair deal, because after all some (most!) workers get paid less and work in harsher conditions and so forth.
Using bulk statistics to show things like bias and collusion is fraught with these issues.
If A and B are in the same desirable location, all the weirder.
Again, you're assuming that there only a few entirely orthogonal variables. If A and B are both located in a desirable location, the cost of moving to A or the cost of moving to B might be high enough, such that it's only justified if there is a large increase in salary. So this factor might well apply more to moving from C->A than it would A->B or B->A. The same housing expenses might also motivate other people to move from A->C. In this case, you might well see more A->C->B jumps than A->B.
However, none of these are cleanly applicable to real people in the real world. We're not dealing with particles or spherical cows here.
I think, in the case of Apple and Facebook, there's more than bulk statistics, anyways. The focus should be on that evidence, not such crude measures.
How should the Bay Area economy have grown in the past decade if we had wanted to prevent the poverty created by tech and landlord wealth? We should have allowed far more housing supply, allowing apartments to bid down rents and also allowing new workers to bid down wages. We should have had higher taxes on land, allowing the poor to share the wealth created by the increasing concentration of employment centers. And we should have had higher national income taxes, spreading the wealth from the highest-paid workers in the winners-take-all economy to the rest. But given the dysfunctional local government (restrictive zoning), dysfunctional state government (Proposition 13), and dysfunctional national government (low top tiers and low taxes on homeowner rents), the collusion that the tech companies did was not clearly a bad thing. The Sherman Act is about enabling the price signal to be the “central nervous system of the economy” (U.S. v. Socony-Vacuum Oil Co) to mobilize labor and capital. But when the dominant factor in the labor market is local governments’ restrictions on the housing supply which prevent mobility, I don’t see much point in enforcing the antitrust act against companies.
How would we know if they resumed the bad behavior?
Not in plenty of industries.
It's likely far less, considering the fees paid to the law firm(s).
...and it's probably denominated in gift cards to the various companies' stores.
This is more or less an employer union.
It's a subjective matter of semantics, though.
Given how these large companies have a penchant to buy a promising company just to kill the product a couple years later, it seems like it's in the market's best interest to encourage distribution of power. This includes encouraging entrepreneurship with technologists & incentives to grow individual businesses to profitability, while discouraging M & A.
Big companies complain they can't find enough workers with their relatively low wages, and lobby for more H1b worker visas, depressing wages even further as foreign workers cannot change companies easily without moving back to their native countries first.
I can totally imagine Steve Jobs writing that email over "no poaching" to the other big tech companies.
The decision is specific to that one candidate and related directly to the candidates work history.
Is there no N, where N is the number of jobs someone has had in the last five years, where you would consider someone to be a questionable candidate for a key position?
So they went through all this effort to save 3 billion/64000 = $46,875 per employee. Is that how it should be interpreted? If so, these executives are greedy scum.
After what seemed like a really long time - at least a year - I received a check for about $5000, which I had to pay taxes on, so it ended up being around $3000 net. I had left the company by that time, but still owned a substantial amount of stock, so I wouldn't be surprised if I ended up losing more from the negative impact on the stock price than I got in the settlement.
The people who really came out ahead in this were the lawyers, who took something like 25% of the settlement for themselves.
I was kind of annoyed because the initial settlement was apparently so embarrassing that the _judge_ rejected it, something like $330M on supposedly $3B in lost wages. So they went back and increased it to the $435M, still nowhere close to what it should have been. Of course at this point the lawyers' incentives and the class' incentives are not aligned at all, so that's how it ended.
Now it all makes sense.
You are describing negotiation.
Companies are not supposed to want to raise wages any more than employees are supposed to want to lower wages. The balance is how the market puts a value on different kinds of work and skills.
They didn’t apply to Harvey Weinstein until they did!
FAANG companies average of 50% more compensation than average. Especially outside of the bay area.
Typical range TC Sr. SDE in nyc: 150-250k + Bonus.
Typical range TC for Sr. SDE in nyc: for Google/Facebook/Amazon 300-400k ( and goes higher ).
Only the most well paid Quants working in horrible environments made 500k+ There's a good portion >E5 engineers at these companies making well over that.
Anti-competition is bad.. but they are at the top of the industry on compensation. :( So again, don't know how to feel about this.
Just to be clear: you are saying it's possibly ok for a cartel of billionaires to collude to suppress wages for a bunch of people making six figures? Because those employees have it "pretty good" and should be happy with what they're given, even though they are working to build world-historical fortunes and power for the business owners?
Your employers, even as competitors dealing with monetary counts in billions, try to unionize (aka collusion). Stop pretending businesses are looking after your best interests. Chances are, if the business supports something, unless your goals align on that thing with the business, you probably want to do the opposite. Compensation maximization and labor expense minimization are nearly orthogonal.
You're not happy that these companies have SINGLE large shareholders. That the founders kept so much company equity. I FULLY AGREE no one should have that much wealth. But, no one here is complaining about families or others having similar wealth. They are complaining that founders kept that much ownership.
The real wage suppression is happening in other industries and companies. How about the lack of a livable wage in industrial and service industries? How about that fact that the average wage has not kept up with cost of living?
Why are you advocating for engineers like myself making many times the average income and living way above average lives? That's insane!
How about oil companies with similar profits paying engineers 80-100k? at an actual risk of loss of life?
We should focus on the actual problems. The lack of ability to tax generational and asset wealth. The reason they accumulate so much is that we can't tax their share of ownership.
I don't think people really understand the gravity of those fortunes.
Jeff Bezos could now (in theory, at market prices) buy Tacoma, Washington.
As in buy every piece of real estate, private and public, all utilities and infrastructure.
A town of 200,000 people. One man could buy it all. The assessed property value for 2017 was just over $105B, including government-owned, plus wiggle room for other properties.
That "should not" be possible. Buying (or being able to buy, rather) a "mid sized urban city", as an individual.
That actually seems pretty small compared to Bezos impact on global commerce.
I am all for constraints on wealth being created or compounded by political and market corruption. But see no reason to discourage or cap wealth created by productive means.
Note well: I'm not saying that this is OK, either legally or morally. I'm just saying that the parent is way overhyping the problem.
Creating this artificial ceiling in the low 6 figures is awful, regardless of how badly people making less than that are getting screwed. As far as I'm concerned, they're as hopeless as a bucket of crabs and we shouldn't use them as a bar or relative bar for anything.
Do I-bankers look at they're comp and say "yeah that's pretty good. I'm ok getting screwed out of any more"?
I think we should always be advocating for our group as hard as we can.
I applaud anyone who decides to do this of their own volition, but I think we can agree this makes sense societally and it'd just be easier if a third party was responsible for shifting the money around as needed and made sure everyone was paying proportionate to their ability.
Can you imagine how many more inventions and advancements there would be if everyone had access to good education? Didn't have to worry about going bankrupt or dying because they can't meet medical expenses?
If we put money into things that don't necessarily directly directly go into corporate bottom lines by next financial quarter? (roads, transportation infrastructure, clean water and air...)
That's how our society works and we applaude it by promising the potential to become one of the super rich, when much of obtaining that degree of wealth isn't earned through hard work and innovation but instead, pure situational luck and ability to curb your morals and ethics to climb over people and pull the ladder behind you.
"We want to grow the pie, rather than redistribute anything, so everyone can live the American dream" -- when in reality, the pie is plenty big but verrrrry badly distributed when you're among the working poor.
There was also a great video making the rounds recently about Rep. Katie Porter grilling Jamie Dimon about the base wages at his bank in Irvine, CA. She got out a posterboard and did the math on a hypothetical single mother working full-time as a teller ($16.50 an hour). After some very straightforward math, the hypothetical single mother is in the hole $587 every month. She kept pressing Dimon for how he expects that role to be filled, and he had no answer (repeating "I'll have to think about it.") Obviously, on some level he doesn't give a shit, but I think it's the sort of thing where he's also simply never confronted with the reality for someone who doesn't make $31 million a year plus whatever other non-cash he takes home.
I think you guys can't separate your dislike for these companies, with an actual, thoughtful analysis.
Most oil companies make similar profits.. yet the average oil engineer makes 80-100k. With a lot more risk, and in similar high demand as a software engineer.
To be clear though, the people doing data analysis, land exploration, etc. for oil well discovery get paid much more by the way. They make similar amounts to what tech companies can offer in fact.
In your scheme they would not :)
So, don't require a 4.3 GPA from Stanford/MIT/Caltech for entry-level back-office/maintenance type developers. It seems like you're claiming that FAANGs are overpaying non-contributors, or at least those whose impact is not easily measured. So, stop paying so much and see what kind of developers you get.
Why are we focusing on the companies that actually do PAY ABOVE. how about we focus on the industries that UNDER pay. Someone getting compensated many times the average income is not the person we should trying to advocate for. The market can decide that.
That industrial or service worker not getting paid a living wage. THATs who we should be fighting for.
I love how i'm getting downvoted for my parent comment, but no one has taken the time to compare to other industries and companies with similar profits, who pay their engineering talent SUBSTANTIALLY less. Oil industry has similar profits, yet pays engineers 80-100k.
How, since they were not allowing the market to decide that.
> THATs who we should be fighting for.
It's not binary. Both fights are important.
Aka, Sure you might make more but what's the earnings over total career?
But as they say, past performance is no guarantee of future results.
What you have in these companies are single large shareholders vs institutional or family shareholders. That's what you're ultimately uncomfortable with. One person having so much net work.
Why? Why not vs. CEO compensation? Is there some rule that CEOs and shareholders must make absurdly more money than workers, or society will collapse? CEO salaries are routinely defended with "that's what they're worth" - why does this not apply to the lowly worker?
But then, you have multiple classes of stock which undoes that somewhat. Incentives are never fully aligned; there are always things like principal-agent problems.
So I agree in substance if not in snark: it is important to understand these things.