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DOJ’s First Criminal Wage-Fixing Case Ends Mostly in Defeat (3)

April 14, 2022, 5:16 PMUpdated: April 14, 2022, 6:33 PM

A jury found two defendants in the Justice Department’s first criminal wage-fixing case not guilty of violating the Sherman Act while finding one defendant guilty on a single count of obstruction of Federal Trade Commission proceedings.

Neeraj Jindal, the owner of a physical therapy staffing company, was found guilty Thursday of one of three charges while the jury in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas found co-defendant John Rodgers not guilty on all counts. Rodgers was Jindal’s clinical director.

The government charged Jindal with conspiring with competitors to lower pay and recruit others to the scheme.

“I thought that the jury walked away from this thinking there was no harm done here, there were no victims here, there was no intent to fix wages; there were some clumsy text messages,” said Paul Coggins, who represented Jindal. “At the end of the day, the government’s evidence fell pretty far short on the antitrust charges.”

A DOJ official said, “In no way should the verdict today be taken as a referendum on the Antitrust Division’s commitment to prosecuting labor market collusion, or on our ability to prove these crimes at trial.”

The case was one of two trials that began last week testing the government’s emerging strategy of enforcing antitrust laws in labor markets by attempting to hold executives criminally liable.

In the other trial—still pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado—the Justice Department alleges a health-care CEO colluded with competitors to refrain from hiring each other’s workers.

(Updated with additional reporting in sixth and seventh paragraphs)

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at bpenn@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com