LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A federal grand jury in Las Vegas returned an indictment on Tuesday charging VDA OC LLC (formerly Advantage On Call LLC), a health care staffing company, and Ryan Hee, a former manager of the company, with entering into and engaging in a conspiracy with a competitor to allocate employee nurses and to fix the wages of those nurses, in violation of the Sherman Act.
According to the one-count felony indictment filed on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, Hee, a resident of Las Vegas, along with a co-conspirator, agreed not to recruit or hire nurses staffed by their respective companies at Clark County School District facilities and to refrain from raising the wages of those nurses.
During the alleged conspiracy, from about October 2016 until July 2017, Advantage was one of two primary providers of contract nursing services to the school district and employed Hee as a regional manager in its Las Vegas office. Advantage changed its name to VDA OC LLC after its assets were acquired by another company in July 2017.
“When employers conspire to allocate employees and fix wages, it robs American workers of higher pay and the ability to bargain for better, higher-paying jobs,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard A. Powers of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.
“Ensuring that American workers receive the benefits of free and fair competition is a top priority, so we will use every investigative tool at our disposal to investigate these crimes and prosecute perpetrators to the full extent of the law,” added Powers.
“Our office is committed to investigating and prosecuting employers that harm the livelihood of American workers by conspiring to suppress wages,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Christopher Chiou for the District of Nevada. “Working closely with the Antitrust Division, we will continue protecting the integrity of Nevada’s labor market against illegal wage-fixing and no-poach agreements.”
“The FBI is committed to investigating potential corruption that impedes our economy,” said Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI works daily to disrupt illegal activity, like wage-fixing in this case, protecting honest American workers from those who would unfairly enrich themselves. We work hand-in-hand with our partners at the Department of Justice to stop this type of alleged activity and ensure Justice is served.”
A violation of the Sherman Act carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals and a maximum penalty of a $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 maximum.
Tuesday's announcement is the result of a federal investigation being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and the International Corruption Unit of the FBI, with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada.
The charges, in this case, were brought in connection with the Antitrust Division’s ongoing commitment to prosecute anticompetitive conduct affecting American labor markets. Anyone with information on market allocation or price-fixing by employers should contact the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 1-888-647-3258 or visit justice.gov.
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.