United States v. Kemp & Associates

In 2016, a federal grand jury in Utah returned a single count indictment against Kemp & Associates, Inc. (“Kemp”) and its Vice President/COO Daniel Mannix (collectively, “Defendants”) for knowingly entering into a combination and conspiracy in violation of the Sherman Act. Kemp was an “Heir Location Service,” a company that “identif[ies] heirs to estates of intestate decedents and, in exchange for a contingency fee, develop evidence and prove heirs’ claims to an inheritance in probate court.” The Government alleged at some point before January 29, 2014, Defendants “knowingly entered into and engaged in a combination and conspiracy with Richard Blake, Jr., [a competitor Heir Location Service] and other unindicted co-conspirators to suppress and eliminate competition by agreeing to allocate customers of Heir Location Services sold in the United States.” Under this agreement, when the two companies both contacted a potential heir, “the co-conspirator company that first contacted that heir would be allocated certain remaining heirs to that estate who had yet to sign a contract with an Heir Location Services provider.” In return, the company to which heirs were allocated “would pay to the other co-conspirator company a portion of the contingency fees ultimately collected from those allocated heirs.” The Government alleged that, in furtherance of this scheme, Defendants “made payments to the co- conspirator company, and received payments from the co-conspirator company, in order to effectuate this agreement.” Defendants moved for an order that the antitrust case would proceed pursuant to the rule of reason, as opposed to the per se rule, and to dismiss the indictment. As to the statute of limitations, Defendants noted that the limitations period for criminal violations of the Sherman Act was five years, and they argued that the indictment was thus untimely because any agreement between the alleged co- conspirators ended prior to a Mannix email from July 2008, whereas the charging Indictment wasn’t returned until August 2016, and served on defendants on September 1, 2016. The Tenth Circuit determined that the indictment at issue here was timely, but that it did not have jurisdiction over the district court's rule of reason order, and that mandamus was inappropriate in this circumstance. Therefore, the Court reversed the district court's dismissal of the indictment, dismissed the Government's appeal of the rule of reason order for lack of jurisdiction, and remanded this matter for further proceedings. View "United States v. Kemp & Associates" on Justia Law