The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Wednesday that a federal grand jury has chosen to indict a home healthcare executive in Las Vegas for conspiring to fix the wages of nurses.
According to the DOJ press release, Eduardo Lopez, was an executive at three different home health agencies, which provide various in-home services to patients all over the state. As part of his role, he was in charge of the recruitment, hiring, retention, and assignments of nurses and other healthcare staff.
Prosecutors say Lopez and his co-conspirators, who were not named in the indictment, tried to artificially suppress competition for nurses between the three agencies from 2016 to 2019, which would have resulted in lower wages for nurses. Specifically, he and his colleagues are being charged with participating in a series of meetings and communications to fix wages of nurses.
“Wage fixing is a crime that deprives workers of hard-earned wages,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “The Antitrust Division will be vigilant in protecting workers.”
Wage fixing is when several companies who are competitors in the same industry agree to reduce wages below the market rate, thereby avoiding competition. These are sometimes referred to as “anti-poaching agreements.”
In a normal market, employers would gradually increase wages in hopes of attracting more talent. The company that offers the highest wage wins by attracting the best workers, but Lopez tried to fix the market in violation of the Sherman Act, an antitrust law passed in 1890 designed to increase competition among employers.
“We will continue to partner with the Antitrust Division and the FBI to protect the marketplace and the rights of workers to earn fair wages,” said U.S. Attorney Jason M. Frierson for the District of Nevada. “We will investigate and prosecute those who engage in anticompetitive activities.”
“The wage fixing alleged in this case harmed hard working Americans and cheated them of fair opportunity and compensation,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI is committed to rooting out anti-competitive activity and corruption.”
Violating the Sherman Act comes with a stiff penalty. If he is found guilty, Lopez faces a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine with a maximum penalty of $100 million 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.
His next hearing is scheduled for March 28.