Earlier this year, the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced that it was launching the Disruptive Technology Strike Force (“Strike Force”) in an effort “to target illicit actors, strengthen supply chains and protect critical technological assets from being acquired or used by nation-state adversaries.” The DOJ’s initial announcement can be found here. The Strike Force is co-led by the DOJ and Commerce Department with the goal of countering efforts by hostile nation-states seeking to illegally acquire sensitive United States technology. On May 16, 2023, the DOJ announced criminal charges in five cases from five different U.S. Attorney’s Offices in connection with the Strike Force’s efforts. Two of the cases involve allegations of trade secret theft from U.S. technology companies with the intent to market the technology in foreign countries.
A Ruling and Order issued on April 28, 2023 by the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut in United States v. Patel, et al. ran the government’s losing streak to four failed trials seeking to criminally prosecute alleged wage-fixing and no-poach agreements.
To review, in 2016 the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) issued Antitrust Guidance for Human Resources Professionals that warned of potential criminal prosecution for so-called “naked” no-poach agreements, i.e., agreements among competing businesses to restrict hiring or compensation of employees, untethered to any legitimate collaborative relationship.
Within the last year, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) brought its first indictments alleging criminal wage-fixing conspiracies and criminal no-poach conspiracies among competing employers. In December 2020, DOJ indicted the president of a staffing company for violating Section 1 of the Sherman Act by allegedly conspiring with competitors to fix wages paid to physical therapists. A month later, DOJ indicted a corporation for violating the Section 1 of the Sherman Act because it allegedly entered into “naked no-poach agreements,” pursuant to which it agreed not to solicit senior employees of two competitors In March 2021, DOJ filed its second wage-fixing indictment, which also alleged a conspiracy to allocate workers. As reported here and here, these indictments were the culmination of the DOJ’s Policy, contained in its 2016 Antitrust Guidance for Human Resource Professionals (“Antitrust Guidance”) to bring criminal charges against employers who conspired to suppress wages, either through wage-fixing agreements or naked no-poach agreements.
As readers of this blog know, no-poach and wage-fixing agreements are a current hot topic for both civil and criminal enforcement by the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice.
Our colleague, Stuart M. Gerson has authored a helpful summary of recent history and what’s at stake regarding this topic, in an article published in Bloomberg Law: “No-Poaching Agreements, Wage-Fixing & Antitrust Prosecution.”
The following is an excerpt:
Especially in difficult economic times, companies look for stability and predictability. Hence, while intent upon avoiding ...
In the past month, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has made good on its 2016 threat, contained in its Antitrust Guidance for Human Resource Professionals (“Antitrust Guidance”) to bring criminal charges against people or corporations who enter into naked wage-fixing agreements or naked no-poach agreements. First, as reported here, on December 9, 2020, DOJ obtained an indictment against the president of a staffing company who allegedly violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act by conspiring with competitors to “fix wages” paid to physical therapists (PT) and physical ...
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced that a federal grand jury in Texas indicted Neeraj Jindal, the former owner of a physical therapist staffing company, in connection with an illegal wage-fixing conspiracy to depress pay rates for physical therapists (“PTs”) and physical therapist assistants (“PTAs”) who travel to patients’ homes or assisted living facilities in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area. The indictment was something of a landmark for the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”), which for years had promised that such ...
On March 12, 2019, Dunkin’ Donuts, Arby’s, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and Little Caesars agreed to stop including “no-poach” clauses in their franchise agreements and no longer to enforce such clauses in existing agreements. A no-poach clause is an agreement between employers not to hire each other’s employees. The franchisors agreed to end this practice following an investigation by a coalition of attorneys general from 14 states into the use of no-poach clauses in fast food franchise agreements. In a press release announcing the settlement, Maryland Attorney ...
[caption id="attachment_2116" align="alignright" width="113"] James P. Flynn[/caption]
In the recent case of United States v. Nosal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit confirmed the applicability of both the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Economic Espionage Act as safeguards against theft of trade secrets by departed former employees. Importantly, Nosal applied such laws to convict a former employee in a case involving domestic businesses and personnel without any alleged overseas connections. Because of civil enforcement provisions in the CFAA ...
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