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(New throughout, adds details and statement from DaVita and spokesperson for former CEO)
WASHINGTON, July 15 (Reuters) - Dialysis provider DaVita and its former CEO Kent Thiry were indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver on charges they conspired with competitors not to hire each other's key employees, the U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday.
DaVita and Thiry allegedly had an anti-poaching agreement with Surgical Care Affiliates LLC from 2012 to 2017 that sought to prevent each company from wooing away senior-level employees, the department said. SCA was charged in January. DaVita had a similar agreement with another, unnamed company that ran from 2017 to 2019, the department said.
DaVita said in a statement that "the charges against the company are unjust and unwarranted."
"The government’s case relies on an unprecedented and untested application of the antitrust laws to alleged discussions involving a former executive that occurred many years ago. We will vigorously defend the company against this unjustified action," it said.
Karen Crummy, spokesperson for Thiry, said the allegations against the former CEO were "false and rely on a radical legal theory about senior executive recruitment without precedent in U.S. history."
The Justice Department indictment quoted an email from an unnamed person to Thiry: "You also have my commitment we discussed that I'm going to make sure everyone on my team knows to steer clear of anyone at DVA and that I'll come back to you and talk before ever get anywhere near a point that could contemplate someone else.”
Both DaVita and SCA also required senior-level employees who applied to work for them to notify their current employers that they were job-hunting, the indictment said.
The Biden administration has sought to implement a sweeping executive order aimed at promoting competition in the U.S. economy, including the labor market. (Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Leslie Adler, Cynthia Osterman and David Gregorio)