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Court finds Indian-American not guilty in labour market conspiracy case

PUNJAB NEWS LINE | May 03, 2023 12:37 PM

NEW YORK: An Indian-origin executive of an aerospace engineering company in the US, and several other officials were found not guilty of conspiring to limit workers' mobility and career prospects, media reports said.

US District Judge Victor Bolden said the Department of Justice (DOJ) failed to prove that former Pratt & Whitney executive Mahesh Patel and five others restrained trade by forging an eight-year "no-poach" agreement to refrain from recruiting and hiring one another's employees, the Hartford Courant reported.

Bolden said that the evidence shows the companies hired so many of one another's employees under agreed upon exceptions to the no-poach deal that it was effectively meaningless.

"Under these circumstances, the alleged agreement itself had so many exceptions that it could not be said to meaningfully allocate the labor market of engineers from the supplier companies working on Pratt and Whitney projects," Bolden wrote.

"Indeed, many engineers or other skilled labourers were hired between and among the supplier companies during the relevant time period."

A federal grand jury in Connecticut indicted Patel, a Pratt & Whitney employee for 26 years, in 2021 along with with Harpreet Wasan, Steven Houghtaling and Tom Edwards, all of Connecticut; and Robert Harvey of South Carolina and Gary Prus, of Florida -- executives of Pratt suppliers.

According to the indictment, the defendants and co-conspirators recognised the mutual financial benefit of the conspiracy -- namely, reducing the rise in labor costs that would occur when aerospace workers were free to find new employment in a competitive environment.

Patel and certain other co-conspirators explicitly appealed to this financial benefit when communicating with each other about the agreement, a DOJ release had stated.

Patel was described as the "enforcer" of an agreement among the companies in Connecticut and elsewhere to hold down costs by not competing for and hiring one another's engineers.

The charges were the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into labour market allocation in the aerospace engineering services industry.

"I am grateful that justice prevailed for Patel and that his innocence has been so firmly established," Brian Spears, defence lawyer said.

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