Denver-based DaVita Inc. and its former CEO Kent Thiry conspired with rivals in the dialysis and kidney care business to not solicit each other’s employees, according to a two-count indictment from a federal grand jury in Denver.
The charges, which will be tested in a trial, stem from an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division into employee allocation agreements in the health care industry. Under those agreements, health care providers pledged to not recruit each other’s workers, limiting those workers’ ability to earn a higher wage and advance their careers, according to Thursday’s announcement.
“Those who conspire to deprive workers of free-market opportunities and mobility are committing serious crimes that we will prosecute to the full extent of the law,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard A. Powers of the Antitrust Division said in a news release. “We are grateful for our partnership with the FBI and our shared commitment to rooting out illegal collusion targeting labor markets.”
DaVita and Thiry are charged with two counts of violating the Sherman Act and are scheduled to make their initial court appearances on July 20 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix in Denver.
The first count charges DaVita and Thirty with conspiring with Surgical Care Affiliates to not solicit each other’s senior-level employees from as early as February 2012 until July 2017. Surgical Care Affiliates was charged in January in a case that is pending in the Northern District of Colorado.
The second count charges DaVita and Thirty with conspiring with another health care company, not yet named, from as early as April 2017 until June 2019 to not solicit DaVita employees.
If convicted, DaVita faces a maximum penalty of $100 million per count, while Thiry faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine per count. Those fines could be doubled depending on the losses suffered by employees who did not have a chance to compete freely for higher wages.
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