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Feds and Lucasfilm settle probe into recruiting practices

December 21, 2010 |  3:00 pm

This time the force was against George Lucas.

The company founded by the "Star Wars" creator, Lucasfilm, reached a settlement with the Justice Department over recruiting practices.

The settlement dealt with the common practice of giving a rival a heads-up when considering poaching an employee. It grew out of a Justice probe into the hiring practices of Lucasfilm and Pixar Animation Studios, which charged that the companies stifled competition by agreeing not to cold call each other when recruiting employees and by notifying each other when making an offer to an employee of the other company. A similar settlement had previously been reached with Walt Disney Co.'s Pixar.

The proposed settlement prohibits the companies from engaging in such practices, the Justice Department said in a statement.

"The agreement between Lucasfilm and Pixar restrained competition for digital animators without any procompetitive justification and distorted its competitive process,"  said Christine Varney, assistant attorney general in charge of the department's anti-trust division. "The proposed settlement resolves the department's anti-trust concerns."

A spokesperson for Lucasfilm declined to comment on the settlement. A spokesman for Disney was not immediately available.

The settlement arose out of a broader investigation by Justice's anti-trust division into the employment practices of high-tech companies. In September, the division reached a similar settlement with Adobe Systems Inc., Apple Inc., Google, Intel Corp., Intuit Inc. and Pixar.

In Hollywood, it is also a common practice for studios and networks to give a warning or seek permission before pursuing an executive. Often this is done to avoid confrontations or risk jeopardizing business relationships.

— Richard Verrier