Lori McAdams, a longtime veteran of Pixar and one of the studio’s highest-ranking women in executive management, is leaving the company, according to a new report in The Hollywood Reporter.

McAdams had been the studio’s vice president of human resources and administration and had worked there for 14 years. The article charges that she was “seen by many as one of Lasseter’s chief protectors.” Her role in protecting Lasseter has not been clearly defined.

Her role in another matter though is much more clear: McAdams was one of the key people responsible for maintaining an illegal industry-wide wage-fixing scheme in feature animation that was in large part spearheaded by Walt Disney and Pixar Animation studios president Ed Catmull. The subsequent lawsuits resulted in a $100 million settlement from Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, and Lucasfilm, in addition to settlements by other corporations.

The lawsuits alleged that during her time at Pixar, McAdams repeatedly violated federal antitrust law by working with competing animation studios to artificially suppress the wages of animation workers and prevent artists the freedom to seek higher salaries by moving to other studios.

McAdams not only helped set up the “gentleman’s agreements” between studios, but she played the role of enforcer when studios didn’t follow her illegal scheme. When a Sony recruiter contacted a Pixar employee in 2006 to try and hire them, McAdams found out and called a management exec at Sony to “tell them to knock it off.” She told another person, “If you ever hear that the studios [who were part of wage-fixing agreement] are calling our people, let me know right away and I’ll take care of it.”

McAdams would also email top human resources executives at competing studios and tell them the future amounts that Pixar was planning to raise its salaries to ensure that the other studios would not raise them higher than Pixar’s. McAdams testified that she “knew it was important not to discuss what Pixar employees earned with someone outside of Pixar,” yet she did that exact thing for many years in her efforts to keep the wages of Pixar employees as low as possible. It should be no surprise that Pixar is a vehemently anti-union company and pays a generally lower wage than the union minimums set by the Animation Guild in Los Angeles.

The roots of the wage-fixing conspiracy in animation stretch back to the mid-’80s when Pixar and Lucasfilm started an agreement to restrain their competition for the same employees. Perhaps it would be interesting then to note who the head of personnel at Lucasfilm was at the time. None other than McAdams, who worked there from 1984-1998.

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