Criminalization of no-poach deals 'earth-shattering' for human resources professionals, Procter & Gamble lawyer says

13 April 2018 8:03am

12 April 2018. By Richard Vanderford

Human resources professionals had an "earth-shattering moment" when they learned enforcers intended to treat no-poach agreements among competitors as a hardcore criminal antitrust violation, a senior lawyer for Procter & Gamble said.

Most HR professionals at large companies were aware that certain activities could pose an antitrust risk, but were caught off guard by guidance released by the US Justice Department this year that no-poach agreements among competitors would be criminally prosecuted, Joanna Neidermeyer, senior counsel at Procter & Gamble, said Thursday at a conference in Washington.*

"I don’t think that most HR professionals ever thought this would be a focus area for the antitrust agencies or that would it be considered equivalent to hardcore criminal conduct," Neidermeyer said. 

"When the guidance came out and they found they were wrong on both counts, it was a little bit of an earth-shattering moment," she said.

DOJ antitrust head Makan Delrahim said in January that the DOJ intends to bring criminal charges over so-called no-poach deals, agreements in which competitors agree not to hire each other's employees. 

Most US companies lag in compliance with labor-related antitrust enforcement, Neidermeyer said, and might not even be aware that no-poach agreements are even wrong, let alone criminal.

"In corporate America, the awareness and compliance efforts in this area are a bit behind in general," she said.

The antitrust agencies' focus on the area will likely bring compliance up, she said.

Neidermeyer said that she wasn't speaking on behalf of Procter & Gamble.

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