re: RE: Shouldn't be legal...
"the board has a responsibility to the shareholders ... to try and make as much of a profit as possible, and that duty usually over-rules loyalty to staff."
Yes, that is true. But the board should take a longer-term view of it, rather than focusing on short-term stock price and profit.
Let's say the downturn will last a year, after which hiring and product development will continue as before. Assuming your figures are accurate (about $100,000 per layoff), this is a good percentage of a year's salary for the people laid off.
Any new people they hire in after the downturn is over will need training and time to get up to speed at work, they are not effective for the first few months and will take years to get up to the speed of someone who had done the job for years. This effect is more pronounced in IT, where products are complicated and engineers cannot just pop in and immediately start productive work.
Product development which was postponed will have to be restarted, with probably new programmers and possibly new market conditions. Much of the expert product knowledge within the company will have to be redeveloped, as the teams will have been split up or laid off. The product will be slower to market and cost more to develop.
The effect of layoffs on morale and risk-taking should also be taken into account. When a company has layoffs every year, people don't feel as much loyalty to the company - they are less likely to work hard, more likely to look for a better offer, and less likely to stick around to finish a project before leaving. And if the company has no real reason for the layoffs, the effect on morale is bigger.
Of course, if a company is losing money rapidly, the situation is different - cuts have to be made for financial reasons. But if a company is raking it in, they should invest in the workers that make the company tick - without them, the company is nothing even if it has the best stockholders in the world.
Stockholders are easy to replace, workers are not.