Economic Liberties Applauds the DOJ’s Antitrust Division for Prosecuting White Collar Criminal Conspiracies

April 19, 2022 Press Release

Washington, D.C. — Over the past two weeks, the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division concluded three trials alleging illegal market allocation, wage fixing, and price fixing agreements, albeit with a mixed record. Today, the American Economic Liberties Project is applauding the Division for indicting corporations and their executives for non-poaching agreements and wage-fixing, which are novel but proper interpretations of the Sherman Act.

“The Department of Justice Antitrust Division has brought a new spirit of aggressiveness, fighting to protect American workers by going after white collar criminal conspirators who flaunt our antitrust laws,” said Katherine Van Dyck, Senior Legal Counsel at the American Economic Liberties Project. “The Division established the important legal precedent that conspiring to stop workers from moving between jobs and suppress their wages is a crime, and it developed that law with hard-nosed indictments and trials.”

In the most prominent case, the Division tried the powerful, politically connected former CEO of DaVita Inc., a dialysis firm, for conspiring with DaVita’s competitors to suppress competition for senior-level employees by agreeing not to solicit them for each other’s companies. They also tried chicken firm executives for price-fixing and an owner of a physical therapy staffing company for wage-fixing. In two of these trials, the Department succeeded in creating useful legal precedent, but had setbacks with the jury.

In the DaVita case, the Division won an important legal precedent, saying that allocating the market for employees is a federal crime, but prosecutors could not persuade the jury that Davita and its CEO violated the law. Both were acquitted. Similarly, in the case against the owner of a physical therapy staffing company, the Division established that wage-fixing is a crime, but only obtained a guilty verdict against the owner for obstruction of justice. In the chicken price-fixing case, there have been two mistrials after juries failed to reach a unanimous decision. Despite pressure from the judge to drop charges, the Antitrust Division will retry many of the defendants. This choice is important, because meat-packing is a sector with tremendous concentration, and Americans are suffering from the consolidated market power of the dominant poultry firms who can raise prices above what they should be. The Division is standing up for its client, the American public.

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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.