On June 5, 2017, Judge Lucy Koh granted final approval of the parties’ settlement agreements. Pursuant to these agreements, BlueSky agreed to pay $5,950,000 to the Class; Sony agreed to pay $13 million, DreamWorks agreed to pay $50 million; and Disney agreed to pay $100 million.
The class alleges that the visual effects and animation companies have conspired to restrain competition in order to suppress payment to animators and other related workers, cheating these employees out of bidding competition.
According to the suit, the animation companies secretly agreed to work together to deprive thousands of their employees better compensation and deny them opportunities to advance their careers at other companies, doing so by limiting recruitment activities that otherwise would have existed. This included the companies colluding to not actively recruit employees from each other – an anti-solicitation scheme.
The suit alleges that although the anti-solicitation scheme may have started in Northern California, the scheme metastasized beyond that region. Pixar’s Vice President of Human Resources, Lori McAdams, wrote in 2005: “With regard to ILM, Sony, Blue Sky, etc., . . . we have a gentleman’s agreement not to directly solicit/poach from their employee pool.” Another individual involved in the scheme wrote in an email, “I know you are adamant about keeping a lid on rising labor costs,” according to the complaint.
Dreamworks Animation agreed to pay $50 million to settle a class action accusing it of perpetuating a "no poach" agreement with other studios over the hiring of animators.
U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh certified a class of animation and visual effects workers, allowing the case to proceed as a class action against all defendants. In an 80-page opinion, Judge Koh found that there was “copious” evidence that the defendants agreed to not solicit other defendants’ employees, and agreed to coordinate compensation policies. Judge Koh also found that the evidence supported plaintiffs’ argument that defendants’ conduct suppressed compensation across the class of animation and visual effects workers.
Recently, a settlement was reached with defendant Blue Sky. Plaintiffs filed their Motion for Preliminary Approval of Settlement with Blue Sky on March 31, 2016.
Plaintiffs filed their motion for class certification.
Judge Koh denied defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint.