(Reuters) - One of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit that accuses tech firms including Apple Inc and Google Inc of conspiring to hold down salaries has asked the court to reject a $324 million settlement negotiated by his own lawyers.
Michael Devine, one of the four named plaintiffs in a class action of 64,000 people, described the tentative settlement as "grossly inadequate" in a letter to the judge in the case.
The proposed settlement is about one-tenth of experts' estimates of potential damages and is lacking in any penalty, he said.
"The class wants a chance at real justice," Devine wrote in the letter to judge Lucy Koh on Sunday. "We want our day in court." (http://r.reuters.com/geb39v)
Tech workers filed the lawsuit against Apple, Google, Intel Inc and Adobe Systems Inc in 2011, alleging they conspired to refrain from soliciting one another's employees in order to avert a salary war.
The workers planned to ask for $3 billion in damages at a trial scheduled to begin at the end of May, according to court filings. That could have tripled to $9 billion under antitrust law.
"As an analogy," Devine wrote, "if a shoplifter is caught on video stealing a $400 iPad from the Apple Store, would a fair and just resolution be for the shoplifter to pay Apple $40, keep the iPad, and walk away with no record or admission of wrongdoing? Of course not."
The case has been closely watched due to the potentially high damages award and the opportunity to peek into the world of Silicon Valley's elite. The case was based largely on emails in which Apple's late co-founder Steve Jobs, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and some of their Silicon Valley rivals allegedly hatched plans to avoid poaching each other's prized engineers.
The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California is In Re: High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, 11-cv-2509.
(Reporting by Supriya Kurane in Bangalore; Editing by Mark Potter)