According to in-court reports from Reuters, the anti-poaching case involves five former employees of tech industry heavyweights Apple, Google, Intel and others, who filed a civil suit alleging the companies illegally instituted anti-poaching measures.
Judge Koh said in Thursday's hearing that internal emails showed unnamed company executives reached a consensus that an agreement to not poach each other's workers would amount to financial gains. The jurist explained that top executives agreed on an approach to hiring employees collectively would be more beneficial than negotiating with individual workers.
It is currently being decided whether the suit should be classified as a class action, though Judge Koh has yet to issue a ruling on the matter. As for the civil suit, attorneys representing the five plaintiffs estimated damages could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars.
Apple counsel argued that Cook was not involved in the anti-poaching allegations as he was the company's chief operating officer at the time, but Judge Koh said he will still be subject to a deposition.
"I find it hard to believe a COO would have no say over salary and compensation for all employees," Koh said.
In addition to Cook, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt will also be questioned on Feb. 20, while top ranking officials from the other defendants, including Intel's Paul Otellini, are also slated to take part in upcoming depositions.
Apple, along with six other defendants, attempted to have the lawsuit dismissed in April 2012, but Judge Koh refused, citing a high probability of collusion. As a result of the suit it came to light that late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs sent an email to Google's Schmidt in 2007, asking the executive to stop poaching his employees.
It was discovered in 2009 that Apple and Google had an unofficial agreement to not poach each other's employees, a deal that resulted in a U.S. Department of Justice antitrust investigation. Apple, Google, Pixar, Intel, Adobe and Intuit all agreed to a settlement in 2010 that blocked the companies from any further anti-poaching deals.