On March 1, 2019, more than 100 antitrust lawyers, academics, and law students gathered in Santa Clara Law’s Charney Hall for a one-day national conference on antitrust law and its impact in Silicon Valley. Hosted by the Santa Clara Law Review and co-sponsored by the State Bar Association’s Antitrust Law Section, the conference was both timely and important. Key political groups are currently discussing proposals to limit the antitrust power, recent failures to safeguard consumer data, and the exercise of political power by large tech companies. Planned by a team from Santa Clara Law Review, with assistance from Professor Donald Polden, the conference featured a screening of a new documentary film, “When Rules Don’t Apply,” [link: https://www.whenrulesdontapply.com/] about the alleged conspiracy among leading Silicon Valley tech companies not to hire each other’s engineers, animators, and other high-level professional talent.
“I was pleased to see more than 15 leading antitrust lawyers gathered and discussing very important issues in antitrust law—US and international—and intellectual property law and government enforcement policies,” said Polden. “One of the most interesting talks was by Dan Wall JD ’80, a partner at Latham & Watkins in San Francisco, one of the leading antitrust lawyers in the US, who gave an excellent, comprehensive look at the role and influence of antitrust law and litigation in Silicon Valley over the past 30 or 40 years.”
In addition to the keynote by Wall, Michael Murray, Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, delivered a morning keynote address on the DOJ’s recent initiatives in labor antitrust enforcement. The audience then heard from several academic lawyers discussing the application of antitrust and intellectual property laws to technology sector cases and issues. The event also featured a panel of leading antitrust lawyers discussing many of the most significant issues facing Silicon Valley tech companies and consumers including enforcement initiatives by the California Attorney General’s office, the European Union’s recent actions against U.S. tech companies, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Amex. The symposium concluded with a screening of “When Rules Don’t Apply,” which was produced by the Filmmaker’s Cooperative in San Francisco, and a panel discussing the issues of antitrust violations of labor and employment laws.
“The event provided an extraordinary forum for discussion of the established and emerging law on ‘no-poach agreements’—a form of anti-competitive conduct whereby employers agree with each other to not hire each other’s employees,” said Polden. “The effect of the agreements—and Steve Jobs and George Lucas orchestrated one of the most successful anti-competitive agreements among 15 or more high tech giants in Silicon Valley—is to suppress employees (in these cases, approximately 65,000 engineers) wages/salaries and job mobility. Accenting this theme was the viewing of a new—yet to be publicly released—documentary film on the no-poach conspiracies in Silicon Valley and a very interesting discussion that followed.”
The Santa Clara Law Review will publish many of the speakers’ articles in a special symposium issue in Summer 2019. “It was an honor to work with and get to know the many talented and esteemed speakers in attendance,” Marsha Levinson, symposium editor of the Santa Clara Law Review shared, “I know I personally learned so much, and I’m sure all of the other [law] students in attendance did as well.”