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Judge approves $415 million settlement in tech worker lawsuit

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(Reuters) — A U.S. judge on Wednesday granted final approval to a $415 million settlement that ends a high-profile lawsuit in which workers accused Apple Inc., Google Inc. and two other Silicon Valley companies of conspiring to hold down salaries.

The plaintiffs alleged that Apple, Google, Intel Corp. and Adobe Systems Inc. agreed to avoid poaching each other's employees, thus limiting job mobility and, as a result, keeping a lid on salaries.

In a ruling on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, found the deal was fair to the thousands of plaintiff workers in the class action.

Attorneys representing those workers had asked for about $81 million in fees. However, Judge Koh decided such an award would be an inappropriate "windfall" for the lawyers, and awarded about $40 million instead.

The antitrust class action lawsuit was filed in 2011. It has been closely watched because of the possibility that big damages might be awarded and for the opportunity to peek into the world of some elite U.S. tech firms.

The case was based largely on emails in which Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and some of their rivals detailed plans to avoid poaching each other's prized engineers.

The case is In Re: High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California 11-cv-2509.