Criminal Market Allocation or Pro-Competitive Agreement: The Debate over DOJ’s “No Poach” Prosecutions

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No poaching allowed! No, you have not wandered into a Hunter’s Safety Forum, but rather an in depth discourse regarding the Department of Justice, Antitrust Division’s recent criminal investigations and prosecutions of “No Poach” conduct.  These agreements, which generally establish that Company A will not hire Company B’s employees and in exchange Company B agrees to do the same, have been in the DOJ crosshairs since 2016, but only in the last year have they been specifically referenced in public charging documents.  DOJ’s decision to now criminally prosecute “no poach” agreements has resulted in approximately six charged cases from January 2021 to the present.  The criminal antitrust defense bar, as well as some academics, have cried foul given that from their perspective the DOJ has created a new form of criminal antitrust conduct out of whole cloth and is prosecuting individuals and corporations who had no intent to violate the law nor had any indication that discussing employment concerns with another company was unlawful.  The enforcers have responded just as forcefully and argue that it has always been criminal under Section 1 of the Sherman Act to allocate markets and “no poach” is nothing more than the allocation of the market for employees.  Amidst this backdrop, our panel will examine the evolution of “no poach” from the DOJ’s 2016 Guidance for Human Resource Professionals to the cases that are currently pending before judges and at least one jury.  

Our panel will include former Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Barry Nigro, Co-Chair of the ABA Antitrust Section’s Cartel & Criminal Practice Committee Lindsey Vaala, former United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Zach Terwilliger, and Pepper Crutcher, chair of the Labor and Employment practice group at the Federalist Society and partner at Balch & Bingham, who will wrangle our panel and serve as moderator.


Featuring:

  • Barry Nigro, Partner, Fried Frank, and former Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust
  • Lindsey Vaala, Counsel, Vinson & Elkins, and Co-Chair, ABA Antitrust Section's Cartel and Criminal Practice Committee
  • Zach Terwilliger, Partner, Vinson & Elkins, and former United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia
  • Moderator: Pepper Crutcher, Partner, Balch & Bingham and Chairman, Labor & Employment Practice Group at the Federalist Society

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As always, the Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues; all expressions of opinion are those of the speaker.