A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Neeraj Jindal, the former owner of a therapist staffing company, for participating in a conspiracy to fix prices by lowering the rates paid to physical therapists and physical therapist assistants in north Texas, including the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, the Department of Justice announced today. The indictment also charges Jindal with obstruction of the Federal Trade Commission’s separate investigation into this conduct.
According to the two-count indictment filed in the U.S. District Court in Sherman, Texas, Jindal and his co-conspirators agreed to pay lower rates to certain physical therapists and physical therapist assistants, and Jindal’s company paid lower rates, from in or about March 2017 and continuing through in or about August 2017. Jindal is charged with participating in the conspiracy when he was the owner of a Texas-based therapist staffing company that provided in-home physical therapy services. Jindal is also charged with obstruction of proceedings before the Federal Trade Commission. According to the indictment, Jindal made false and misleading statements and withheld and concealed information during the Federal Trade Commission’s investigation to determine whether Jindal’s company or other therapist staffing companies violated Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.
“The charges announced today are an important step in rooting out and deterring employer collusion that cheats American workers — especially health care workers — of free market opportunities and compensation,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “Employers who conspire to fix the wages of workers or restrict their mobility by allocating labor markets will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The division will also continue to prosecute those who undermine the integrity of federal investigations, including proceedings before other federal agencies.”
“The integrity of the market is the foundation of our free-enterprise system,” said U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Cox for the Eastern District of Texas. “Wage-fixing agreements exploit workers by pushing down wages and eliminating competition. The Eastern District of Texas is proud to partner with the Antitrust Division in protecting the marketplace and the opportunities for American workers.”
“The FBI is committed to rooting out anti-competitive activity and corruption in our markets,” said Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the Criminal Investigative Division. “In this case, Neeraj Jindal attempted to cheat the system and, in doing so, hurt hard-working Americans providing medical care and relief. Our International Corruption team worked creatively and diligently to investigate this crime. We are prepared to take our findings and work with our partners at the Department of Justice to ensure justice is served.”
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
A violation of the Sherman Act carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals. 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 $1 million. The charged obstruction offense carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
Today’s announcement is the result of a federal investigation being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal I and II Sections and the International Corruption Unit of the FBI.
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 www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html.