How can you hold down the cost of hiring the best talent?
In lots of businesses, the skill, knowledge, and creativity of workers make a crucial difference. Those traits matter most on the high end of the high-end. Think law, medicine, engineering, physics, computer science, rocket science, oenology, epistemology, and macrame. The high-end could hardly exist without these titans.
So what can you do to manage what you have to pay for their services? Can you agree with firms that compete with you to limit the talent's compensation? Can you exchange promises not to solicit one another's employees? Can you, in short, conspire to restrain trade?
Of course not.
That explains why Lucasfilm reached a deal with the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice to end the company's pact with Pixar not to compete for digital animators. In a Complaint it filed as part of the arrangement with Lucasfilm, the Antitrust Division charged that Lucasfilm and Pixar "entered into an agreement not to cold call, not to make courteroffers under certain circumstances, and to provide notification when making employment offers to each other's employees." Complaint ¶ 2. The Lucasfilm-Pixar pact, according to the press release, "eliminated important forms of competition to attract highly skilled employees and, overall, significantly diminished competition to the detriment of affected employees who were likely deprived of information and access to better job opportunities."
Pixar — along with other high-tech companies including Intel and Apple — reached a similar deal with the DOJ in September. Post here.
Note that an agreement with a direct competitor to limit rivalry over hiring employees constitues a per se violation of the Sherman Act. A per se violation doesn't require proof of monopoly power. So you may not want to beguile yourself with the notion that you comply with antitrust law so long as you don't dominate your market.