Morvillo Abramowitz Helps Executive Avoid Jail Time for Antitrust Offense

March 2, 2020

NEW YORK, March 2, 2020 – Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello PC obtained a successful result in a long-fought criminal antitrust prosecution, enabling its client, a senior executive in the heir location industry, to avoid any jail time. Utah federal district judge David Sam sentenced the firm’s client to one year of probation for violating the Sherman Antitrust Act. The executive was facing an advisory range of 18-24 months of incarceration under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, and the government requested 21 months of incarceration. Instead, the Court granted the defense request for a sentence of probation.

In the heir location services industry, firms use genealogical research to track down heirs to intestate estates. Morvillo Abramowitz’ client was the co-owner and manager of one such firm. The case against him had a long and winding history, and attracted attention among the antitrust bar. In 2017, the district court dismissed the indictment as untimely and further ruled that the case would be governed by the rule of reason, which would have precluded the government from continuing to pursue it criminally. The Department of Justice Antitrust Division appealed that ruling. The Tenth Circuit reversed the limitations ruling and, although unable to rule on the rule of reason decision, offered views contrary to the district judge’s original ruling. The district court thereafter reversed itself, concluding that the per se rule applied to the case. Faced with what was essentially a strict liability case based on a written agreement, the executive entered a guilty plea, hoping for the outcome that, in the end, we were able to achieve.

Morvillo Abramowitz partner Richard F. Albert and counsel Devin Cain represented the executive.