DOJ’s Win in First Criminal Monopolization Case in 50 Years Marks End to Decades of Corporate Lawlessness

October 31, 2022 Press Release

Washington, D.C. — The American Economic Liberties Project released the following statement in response to news that the Department of Justice Antitrust Division secured a guilty plea from Nathan Nephi Zito, a paving and asphalt contractor based in Billings, Montana, in its first criminal monopolization case in 50 years.

“This guilty plea marks the end of an era for the kind of corporate lawlessness that has harmed local communities across the country,” said Katherine Van Dyck, Senior Legal Counsel at the American Economic Liberties Project. “The drafters of the Sherman Act knew then, and we know now, that the threat of criminal indictment and jail time is the best deterrent against illegal concentrations of power in our economy. Criminal charges are almost always on the table in corporate fraud investigations, and they should be a real threat in corporate monopoly investigations too.”

Section 2 of the Sherman Act explicitly states that monopolization is a felony, punishable by fines up to $100 million and imprisonment of individuals up to 10 years. The Department of Justice’s one-count felony charge against Nathan Nephi Zito alleges that he attempted to conspired with his only potential competitor “to divide territories and end competition in…Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Nebraska” for publicly funded highway projects. Zito admitted to “monopolizing the markets for highway crack-sealing services” and “further propos[ing] that he and his competitor enter into a sham transaction to disguise their collusion.” Zito’s sentencing has been scheduled for February 23, 2023.

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The American Economic Liberties Project works to ensure America’s system of commerce is structured to advance, rather than undermine, economic liberty, fair commerce, and a secure, inclusive democracy. Economic Liberties believes true economic liberty means entrepreneurs and businesses large and small succeed on the merits of their ideas and hard work; commerce empowers consumers, workers, farmers, and engineers instead of subjecting them to discrimination and abuse from financiers and monopolists; foreign trade arrangements support domestic security and democracy; and wealth is broadly distributed to support equitable political power.