For years, tech giants like Apple, Google, and Adobe made secret agreements to avoid hiring rival talent, keeping salaries artificially suppressed. These companies almost got away with paying a tiny settlement—but that monetary mea culpa just got shot down.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh says the paltry payout just isn't enough, given that damages could have run into the billions:

Class members would receive an average of approximately $3,7506 from the instant settlement if the Court were to grant all requested deductions and there were no further opt-outs...The Court finds the total settlement amount falls below the range of reasonableness. The Court is concerned that Class members recover less on a proportional basis from the instant settlement with Remaining Defendants than from the settlement with the Settled Defendants a year ago, despite the fact that the case has progressed consistently in the Class's favor since then.

In other words, the evidence against Apple and company has been so vast, $300 million or so just won't cut it. The trove of emails, conversations, and testimonies unearthed during the suit make it clear that "other Defendants' CEOs maintained the anti-solicitation agreements out of fear of and deference to Mr. [Steve] Jobs."

Judge Koh says damages should not be any less than $380 million—and that still seems pretty light for an intricate conspiracy against employees of some of America's richest firms.

Koh's order can be read in full below.

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Photo: Getty