Some industry watchers have lamented the loss of Steve Jobs as Apple’s CEO and have claimed that the company lost its innovative edge when current CEO Tim Cook took the reins. However, regardless of what you think about the tenure of Cook, Apple’s recent legal troubles suggest that the company is better off in some ways without Jobs at the helm. While there’s no question that Jobs had an uncanny talent for developing products that people love, the legendary co-founder of Apple also had a tendency to trespass the boundaries of ethical behavior when it came to running the Cupertino-based company. It’s the latter aspect of Jobs’s tenure as CEO that is continuing to haunt Apple today.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh rejected a $324.5 million settlement offer from Apple and three other tech companies that would have ended a long-running class action lawsuit over the companies’ illegal anti-poaching agreements that suppressed workers’ wages. In her order rejecting the settlement offer, Koh suggested that the settlement fund should total no less than $380 million. While the conspiracy involved multiple agreements between various tech companies, Koh noted in her order that “There is substantial and compelling evidence that Steve Jobs (Co-Founder, Former Chairman, and Former CEO of Apple, Former CEO of Pixar) was a, if not the, central figure in the alleged conspiracy.”
Now it appears that Koh’s assessment of the tech companies’ anti-poaching conspiracy is spawning even more legal trouble for Apple. This week, R. Andre Klein filed a shareholder derivative complaint on behalf of himself and all other stockholders of Apple that accuses various company executives, including Jobs and Cook, of “breach of fiduciary duty; gross mismanagement; waste of corporate assets; and breach of the duty of honest services” for engaging in illegal anti-poaching practices and for failing to disclose the Department of Justice’s investigation of the conspiracy. Koh’s quote that identifies Jobs as a “central figure in the alleged conspiracy” is found on the first page of the complaint.