A federal jury found Denver-based DaVita and its former CEO Kent Thiry not guilty Friday, after determining that neither the dialysis giant nor Thiry broke the law when they made agreements with other companies not to hire each other’s employees.
The verdicts Friday capped a nearly two-week trial of a closely watched criminal conspiracy case. It was the first time that a criminal jury has been asked to decide if corporations are committing a crime when they agree not to hire employees away from each other, and it could have set a precedent criminalizing that practice as an antitrust violation.
Thiry and DaVita, one of the country’s largest kidney care companies, were initially indicted in July on two counts of violating the Sherman Act, which deals with antitrust law. In November, the grand jury returned a second indictment adding a third count. Federal prosecutors accused DaVita and Thiry of conspiring in three separate schemes to suppress competition around the hiring of certain employees between 2012 and 2019.
The jury deliberated for two days and returned their verdicts about 4:10 p.m.
“The jury affirmed that this case should never have been brought,” Thiry said in a statement. He thanked the jury for its “thoughtfulness in performing its solemn duty.”
While the landmark antitrust case drew national attention, a guilty verdict could have had larger legal ramifications on Colorado corporations, John Francis, who teaches health and antitrust law at the University of Colorado, said.
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