We’re talking to you, animators. Especially those working for Pixar, Dreamworks, and maybe – just maybe – the Dread Boss Disney:
by Mark Ames
Just when the tech giants behind the Silicon Valley “Techtopus” wage fixing cartel thought the worst was behind them, US District Judge Lucy Koh has thrown a surprise twist — refusing for now to give her seal of approval to the $324 million class action settlement.
Judge Koh has suggested the agreed settlement might be too low, but there are whispers that Koh is frustrated at being denied the chance to preside over what would have been one of the most interesting and significant Big Tech court cases ever (a frustration shared by this particular journalist and at least one of the plaintiffs in the case, Michael Devine).
But while the class action suit continues to grind towards a conclusion, there remain plenty of revelations as yet unreported from the depositions and court documents.
For one thing, most of the previous attention in the case was focused on the behavior of executives at Apple and Google. What hasn’t been fully explored is the involvement of major and minor Hollywood studios that are alleged to have been party to the same illegal cartel. The wage-fixing cartel originated with Pixar and Lucasfilm, two northern California computer animation film studios now under Disney’s roof.
Disney, in particular, has received very little public scrutiny over its own role in the Techtopus, an oversight which is made all the more troubling by the fact that the company’s CEO, Robert Iger, is now heading a campaign to increase the number of foreign tech workers coming to America, using a dubious study to promote its cause.
In May, just days after the $324 million Techtopus settlement was reached, a major industry-funded report was published, claiming that more H-1B visas should be issued to foreign tech workers. This, they argued, would lead to higher wages for everyone in the tech industry. The report was funded by the Partnership for a New American Economy a powerful union of CEOs, founded by billionaire media oligarchs Michael Bloomberg (worth $34.4 billion) and Rupert Murdoch (worth $14.3 billion), and co-chaired by tech oligarch Steve Ballmer ($21 billion) and Disney CEO Iger, last year’s second highest-paid CEO ($34.3 million).
We’ve already reported on the shocking testimony and private email exchanges between tech superstars like Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt, but actually some of the most alarming and revealing testimonies in this case, during the pre-trial period, belong to the two initiators: George Lucas, the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the wage fixing cartel; and his Pixar counterpart, Ed Catmull. Through their testimonies, we learn the names of other major and minor Hollywood studios that are alleged to have been party to the same illegal cartel, including Disney itself, after it became Pixar’s parent company in January 2006 — and Dreamworks Animation, whose name repeatedly pops up as a participant in depositions and emails.