Amazon Sues Google Over New Hire

Posted on June 9, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Amazon, Cloud, Google with 9 Comments

Amazon has sued Google to prevent a former Amazon executive from taking a job in the search giant’s Google Cloud business, arguing that doing so violates his non-compete agreement.

The suit, which was first reported by Geekwire, involves Brian Hall, who worked for Microsoft for over 20 years, which is where I interacted with him quite a bit back in the day.

Hall had hinted at the problems in a tweet I saw last week, noting that “I want to make it clear that I’m a big [Amazon Web Services] fan. The AWS people are fantastic. I really enjoyed working there [and] great things are happening for the industry. When I disclosed [that] I left, I got asked a lot of [questions]. It’s complicated, but I’m a fan!”

The source of that tweet was an earlier tweet in which Hall suggested that he left Amazon alongside several other executives because the firm wouldn’t commit to not selling facial recognition surveillance technology to police departments in the wake of country-wide protests over the police killing of George Floyd.

Anyway, Hall wasn’t at Amazon very long—he started there in June 2018—but he always wasn’t out of work very long, either: Google hired him in April 2020 after he stepped down from Amazon in March.

Amazon’s suit gets pretty personal. It claims that Hall only stepped down after he was passed over for a promotion, and that he had no experience in “cloud product marketing” prior to working for Amazon, noting that “he recently worked for companies developing earbuds, computers, and related hardware.” Even I know that’s not true, since my dealing with Hall involved Microsoft’s work in the cloud. But the point there is to obliterate the 20+ years of experience that Hall gained while working for Amazon’s cross-town rival.

Amazon would like to prevent Hall from starting his work at Google for 18 months, in keeping with the terms of his non-compete agreement.

In his response, Hall claims that the agreement is unenforceable and that the firm had explicitly told him it would never pursue such action regardless. “Amazon led Hall to believe that it had no objections to the new role,” the response notes. “No longer is Amazon ‘[v]ery happy’ about Hall’s new role, nor does it ‘wish [him] nothing but the best’,” as two Amazon executives previously told him.

Everyone loves a good fight, so it will be interesting to see where this lands. Hall’s Twitter profile now reads as “VP in Purgatory [at] Google.” My guess is that it will remain like that for 18 more months.

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