According to a piece by Steve Johnson, Elise Ackerman, and Sue McAllister for the Mercury News, the U.S. Justice Department is turning up the heat on allegations that some Silicon Valley companies are acting monopolistically in their hiring practices. Specifically, they are investigating whether Google, Yahoo, Apple, Genentech, and other tech companies conspired to keep other companies from poaching their top talent.

Tech recruiters in the valley have been poaching talent from other companies for years. In fact, the better you were at wooing top personnel from other companies, the more valuable you were as a recruiter.

Now the allegation is that Google, Yahoo, etc., are negotiating under-the-table agreements NOT to poach from specific companies, agreements usually made in deference to marketing partners. However, the practice may be illegal, in that it breaks anti-trust laws.

If two or more companies agree to avoid poaching employees from the same list of companies, it could constitute anti-competitive collusion under federal law. Critics say that non-poaching agreements could potentially limit the career opportunities of employees, becoming, in essence, indentured servitude for the workers.