On March 16, 2023, the U.S. Department of Justice announced another indictment of an individual, alleging price-fixing in the labor markets for health care services. This indictment of an individual in Las Vegas, Nevada, alleges that he held executive positions at multiple home health care agencies where he oversaw the recruitment, hiring, retention, and assignment of nurses and other health care staff and that he agreed to fix the wages of nurses by conspiring with others to suppress and eliminate competition for the services of nurses between March 2016 and May 2019. The indictment alleges that a series of meetings and communications occurred between the person indicted and certain unnamed coconspirators.
The indictment demonstrates the continued efforts of the Antitrust Division to focus on wage price-fixing and shows the need for every entity, including health care entities, to have up-to-date and effective compliance programs and regular training on those programs. Violations of federal antitrust laws such as those alleged carry a statutory maximum penalty of ten years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals and a maximum $100 million fine for corporations. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by victims if either amount is greater than the statutory maximums.
There is no doubt that the health care industry is under increased scrutiny from the Antitrust Division on multiple fronts and that the Antitrust Division is investigating a wide variety of health industry-related conduct in addition to gathering information through merger investigations. All of this learning and evidence gathering by the Antitrust Division should be more than enough to make persons and entities well aware that what they are doing, what they are writing, whom they are meeting with, and the results they are trying to accomplish are likely to be scrutinized by regulators and others. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission’s recent attempts to effectively outlaw covenants not to compete also shine a bright spotlight on potentially anticompetitive employment practices.
There is never a better time than the present to review your compliance programs, your training programs, your document creation practices, and your ability to identify potential problems and issues in these areas.