A federal jury acquitted DaVita Inc. and its former CEO Kent Thiry of all charges Friday, a resounding defeat for government prosecutors who had targeted the Denver-based dialysis giant’s non-poaching agreements with rival companies in an unprecedented criminal conspiracy case.
Federal prosecutors had argued the agreements stymied competition and hindered employees’ ability to progress their careers; attorneys for DaVita and Thiry countered that there was no evidence the deals were made in order to end meaningful competition
The verdict — which came after two days of deliberation — is expected to have significant repercussions on how the 132-year-old Sherman Anti-Trust Act is used to regulate free competition in the United States.
The jurors found DaVita and Thiry not guilty of three counts apiece of conspiracy in restraint of trade to allocate employees. “Congratulations to the defendants, condolences to the government,” U.S. District Senior Judge R. Brooke Jackson said once the jury was dismissed.
The trial drew widespread attention as the first time a top executive and company were criminally charged for non-poaching agreements under the 1890 antitrust law.