The Department of Justice (DOJ) lost its third jury trial in its mission to secure criminal convictions against companies and executives accused of labor-side antitrust violations on March 22, 2023, when a jury in Maine acquitted four home healthcare staffing executives of violating Section 1 of the Sherman Act. In United States v. Manahe, the DOJ charged Faysal Kalayaf Manahe, Yaser Aali, Ammar Alkinani, and Quasim Saesah with entering into an approximately two-month conspiracy between April and May 2020 not to hire each other’s caretakers and to fix caretaker wages. After the district court declined to dismiss the indictment, holding the DOJ had successfully alleged a per se conspiracy to fix wages and allocate employees, the case proceeded to a two-week trial. At trial, defendants—all immigrants from Iraq, many of whom served as translators for U.S. forces there—admitted that they discussed setting wage levels and refraining from hiring each other’s employees, and even drafted an agreement with signature lines that outlined the terms of defendants’ discussions. Defendants argued that they never reached an agreement in violation of Section 1 because the draft agreement was never signed. Defense counsel emphasized in opening statements that in defendants’ culture, “when dealing with business matters . . . the only way to confirm a commitment is to put it into a formal written contract.” Given the verdict, it appears the jury agreed.
Ann O'Brien is a partner and co-leader of the firm's Antitrust and Competition Practice Group. She also leads the firm’s Criminal Antitrust and Cartels team. Ann is based in the firm's Washington, D.C. office.