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DOJ Pursues Criminal Antitrust Charges In Labor Cases

 |  January 3, 2022

According to Bloomberg Law, the US DOJ is pursuing allegations that companies and executives moved to fix wages or limit worker mobility as criminal rather than civil matters, an emerging strategy poised to test the legal bounds of antitrust enforcement in labor markets.

The previously untested approach is gaining traction now that a Texas federal court, in November, denied an attempt to halt an indictment against an executive and a director of a physical therapy staffing-agency who are accused of colluding with competitors to suppress wages. It marked the first time a criminal case of its kind was allowed to move forward.

A few weeks later, the Justice Department indicted a former executive at aircraft-engine maker Pratt & Whitney for agreeing to not hire competitors’ employees, adding to the string of labor cases brought since late 2020 in at least five courts.

The increasing use of criminal charges puts executives in industries such as health care, engineering and technology at risk of jail time, and marks a new era in a Justice Department effort that began under President Barack Obama and continued through the Trump administration into President Joe Biden’s.

Department officials told Bloomberg Law that the agency expects multiple indictments for alleged criminal conspiracies in labor markets in the coming year and beyond, stemming from investigations across a variety of industries.

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