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Wed, May 03, 2023

DOJ Aviation Antitrust Case Thrown Out

Federal Prosecutorial Overreach Alleged

A Connecticut federal judge ruled that no reasonable juror could convict six accused aerospace and staffing company bosses solely upon evidence presented by prosecutors. The ruling ensured the U.S. Department of Justice’s most recent—and one of its most high-profile—criminal cases will never be weighed by a jury.

Handed down by U.S. District Judge Victor A. Bolden, the ruling occasioned the first instance in decades in which criminal antitrust charges have been thrown out. What’s more, Judge Bolden’s decision instantiates the latest blow struck against the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division’s efforts to prosecute alleged deals seeking to fix wages or restrict recruitment and hiring. To date, such accusations have failed to bring a single jury conviction.

Judge Bolden contended federal prosecutors failed to present compelling evidence of an illegal market allocation of labor insomuch as the workers cited in the case remain able to move freely between engineering staffing companies servicing Raytheon’s Pratt & Whitney division.

Bolden stated: "Under these circumstances, the alleged agreement itself had so many exceptions that it could not be said to meaningfully allocate the labor market of engineers from the supplier companies working on Pratt and Whitney projects.”

While evidence of some restrictions exists, the court maintained such restrictions "shifted constantly throughout the course of the conspiracy," thereby suggesting "hiring was permitted, sometimes on a broad scale.” In the aggregate, however, the observed restrictions failed to meet the threshold of market allocation.

"Even if this was not the case, no reasonable juror could conclude that there was a cessation of ‘meaningful competition’ in the allocated market,'" Judge Bolden opined.

Closing arguments in the case against Mahesh Patel, a former Pratt & Whitney director for global engineering sourcing, were expected to be made on Tuesday, 25 April. Patel was indicted alongside Robert Harvey, Gary Prus, Harpreet Wasan, Steven Houghtaling, and Tom Edwards, executives, all, at engineering staffing companies which, like Raytheon, are unnamed in the indictment but identified in private follow-on litigation as Quest Global Services NA Inc., Belcan Engineering Group, Agilis Engineering Inc., Cyient Inc. and Parametric Solutions Inc.

Counsel for a number of the defendants welcomed the ruling and railed against the DOJ's prosecution.

Defense attorney Craig A. Gillen maintained the evidence presented in the case exonerated the defendants, stating: "We are obviously very happy and relieved that this nightmare is over for Mr. Edwards. It's unfortunate they had to endure this prosecution but it is now behind them."

Marc A. Weinstein, an attorney defending Mr. Harpreet Wasan, disparaged the DOJ more assertively, referring to the agency’s newly-manifest and worrying inclination to pursue criminal cases against alleged deals to fix wages or restrict recruitment and hiring as "a misguided policy experiment … trying to criminalize HR issues."

Weinstein further contended the DOJ had shown an "unwillingness to listen," reporting the agency had, as a matter of convention, resorted to refusing to meet with defendants ahead of indictments for purpose of denying defending counsel opportunity to refute prosecutors' allegations.

"They're not listening to defense attorneys before they charge and they're not listening to juries after they lose," Weinstein averred.

To date, juries have rejected every DOJ labor-side antitrust charge put before them. The singular jury conviction handed down in favor of the DOJ thus far resulted of a charge of lying to government investigators.

 

FMI: www.justice.gov

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