Apr 14, 2022 - News

Jury deliberations begin for criminal trial of Kent Thiry, DaVita

Former DaVita CEO Kent Thiry. Photo: Karl Gehring/The Denver Post via Getty Images

A federal jury has begun deliberating the first-of-its-kind criminal conspiracy case against Denver-based DaVita and its former CEO Kent Thiry for allegedly colluding to obstruct competition.

Driving the news: Following U.S District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson's decision on Wednesday to deny DaVita's attorneys' request for an acquittal, 12 jurors will weigh nearly two week's worth of testimony from former employees to determine if defendants acted with criminal intent.

  • The debate will center on whether non-poaching agreements preventing the recruitment of other companies' employees were purposefully designed to divvy up the market between them, in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

Why it matters: It's the first time in U.S. history that jurors will determine whether corporations can conspire to prevent recruiting each other's employees.

  • No matter the outcome, the verdict will set a precedent for antitrust violations nationwide.

Details: In closing arguments, federal prosecutor Anthony Mariano told jurors the evidence shows that Thiry and DaVita "conspired with their competitors to cheat their employees out of job opportunities." Those agreements are "not business as usual," Mariano said.

  • Defense attorneys acknowledged that Thiry "behaved badly," but said the evidence did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that DaVita's "intent was to end meaningful competition."

Context: Thiry and Davita were indicted by a federal grand jury last July on charges of labor market collusion.

  • Thiry, a prominent philanthropic donor and political voice in Denver, served as the kidney care company's leader for two decades through 2019 and exited as executive chair in 2020.

What's next: The jury's ruling could come as soon as Thursday. If both parties are found guilty, Thiry could serve a lengthy prison sentence and DaVita could face hundreds of millions of dollars in fines.

  • But legal experts predict any convictions are likely to be appealed to higher courts, BusinessDen reports.

The big picture: No matter the outcome, this case likely communicates to companies across the country that "free reign on non-solicitation agreements is probably over," Maclyn Clouse, a professor of finance at the University of Denver, told the Denver Business Journal.


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