DOJ Seeks Dismissal of Labor Antitrust Charges Against UnitedHealth Affiliate
The United States Justice Department has requested the dismissal of criminal antitrust charges against Surgical Care Affiliates and SCAI, both affiliates of the UnitedHealth Group.
The charges, filed in 2021, alleged that the companies violated U.S. antitrust laws by engaging in a conspiracy with industry rivals to restrict the solicitation of each other’s senior-level employees, reported Reuters.
The filing, made in the Dallas federal court, marks a significant setback in the government’s attempts to apply criminal antitrust laws to labor markets. Prosecutors have asked U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay to dismiss the case, stating that it will allow the conservation of the court’s time and resources.
Surgical Care Affiliates, based in Deerfield, Illinois, operates one of the largest ambulatory surgery centers in the United States. The government’s case against the company and its affiliate alleged unlawful practices in restricting employee mobility, leading to a violation of antitrust laws.
This move comes in the wake of a series of defeats for the Justice Department in other closely watched labor-related criminal antitrust cases in federal courts, including Texas and elsewhere.
In April, a judge in Connecticut rejected government claims mid-trial that a group of aerospace engineers unlawfully conspired to restrict hiring. Last year, dialysis provider DaVita and its former CEO Kent Thiry successfully defended against the government’s claims at trial regarding alleged curbs on hiring.
Despite these setbacks, Justice Department antitrust division head Jonathan Kanter has continued to emphasize the significance of labor antitrust cases, noting that judges have allowed such claims to proceed to trial. Attorneys for Surgical Care Affiliates have argued that the Connecticut federal judge’s order in the aerospace case should have implications for the government’s case in the health industry in Texas.