Salary Data Practices Fuel Antitrust Lawsuit

December 28, 2001 ( -A federal appeals court has reignited a lawsuit alleging that oil companies violated federal antitrust laws by sharing salary data on managerial, professional and technical workers.

In reinstating the antitrust case against Exxon Mobil, Texaco, and 12 other oil producers by plantiff Roberta Todd, the US Second Court of Appeals ruled that the “Job Match Survey” could be anti-competitive because the survey data was kept private.

“Dissemination of the information to the employees could have helped mitigate any anti-competitive effects of the exchange and possibly enhanced market efficiency by making employees more sensitive to salary increases,” said Second Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor. “No such dissemination occurred, however. The information was not disclosed to the public nor to the employees whose salaries were the subject of the exchange.”

Todd had charged that the exchange of salary information for managerial, professional and technical workers helped keep salaries artificially low.

The Second Circuit also disagreed that Todd didn?t prove that the jobs at the different companies were comparable so that the salary exchange could be used as part of a conspiracy to suppress salaries.

“A final troubling aspect of the arrangement at issue is the fact that the defendants allegedly participated in frequent meetings to discuss the salary information, accompanied by assurances that the participants would primarily use the exchanged data in setting their salaries,” Sotomayor wrote.

– Fred Schneyer