Law firm’s independent investigation reveals Pratt & Whitney and Belcan no-poach, no-hire practices kept engineers from getting hired, and “were ruining livelihoods,” citing former recruiters and other personnel
Today, aerospace engineers represented by law firm Hagens Berman filed an expanded class-action lawsuit accusing six top aerospace companies of orchestrating a wage-fixing antitrust conspiracy, and revealed new details from recruiters that employees were “held hostage by these agreements,” which “were ruining livelihoods” of the largely veteran aerospace workforce.
The lawsuit filed Feb. 1, 2022, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut reveals an entirely new illegal agreement between defendants Pratt & Whitney and Belcan – a larger scheme than originally revealed by the Department of Justice – and also solidifies the DOJ’s findings of collusion between Pratt & Whitney and QuEST with further evidence of an agreement that prohibited both parties from hiring each other’s employees.
Former Belcan Recruiters & Hiring Managers Come Forward
The class action states that Pratt & Whitney, QuEST Global Services NA, Belcan LLC, Cyient Inc. (formerly known as Infotech Enterprises Ltd.) and Agilis Inc. agreed to suppress wages and other benefits since 2011, depriving thousands of skilled workers across the industry of millions of dollars in compensation.
“Our firm knows antitrust matters are complex areas of litigation. We dug deep, and in just seven weeks following the DOJ’s investigation unearthed more roots of the antitrust conspiracy between these parties,” said Steve Berman, managing partner at Hagens Berman and attorney representing affected aerospace employees. “For over a decade, these major aerospace employers raked in billions in revenue while cheating those they claim to prize as their greatest assets – their own workers. We believe we may be just scratching the surface of how far this scheme went.”
Engineers “held hostage by these agreements”
Hagens Berman’s investigation reveals the most complete set to date of evidence implicating individual co-conspirators from the DOJ’s criminal action, according to the firm, and encompasses multiple industry witnesses, including officials with recruiting responsibilities, who provided direct evidence that confirmed the existence of the conspiracy:
- A former Belcan recruiter described periodic dinners attended by Mahesh Patel (named in the DOJ’s criminal action) and Belcan executives during which Patel would discuss “border patrol,” which was his reference to limiting personnel transfers between Belcan, QuEST and Pratt & Whitney.
- This same recruiter confirmed that Patel was the “ringleader” of the no-hire agreements and would enforce them even when employees wanted to move from one supplier to another. According to this former recruiter, employees were “held hostage by these agreements,” which “were ruining livelihoods.”
- Another former Belcan recruiter described a “Do Not Touch” agreement, under which he was not permitted to hire employees from QuEST while at Belcan.
- A different former Belcan recruiter stated: “the message from Pratt & Whitney to Suppliers was, ‘Look, this is in our sandbox. You all play in our sandbox, so play nice.’ This former recruiter recalled that Patel would ‘call Belcan and tell them they couldn’t hire a person,’” according to the lawsuit.
- Yet another former Belcan recruiter confirmed these agreements hurt employees, saying, “they can’t get hired. Engineers are the ones that get the short end of the stick,” the suit says.
- Another former Belcan manager whose responsibilities included recruiting and hiring similarly recalled that Patel “called the shots.” In approximately 2010 or 2011, following a meeting with Pratt & Whitney, Patel “cornered [this manager] out in the hallway” to tell the Belcan manager that he should not hire any employees from QuEST. After the manager told his supervisor at Belcan about Patel’s comments, that supervisor said to him, “you can’t touch QuEST employees.”
Aerospace Employees – Often Veterans – Denied Wages and Compensation
Attorneys estimate thousands of employees were harmed by the defendants’ wage suppression, and the majority of those employees are likely veterans. One former Pratt & Whitney senior recruiter for engineers cited in the lawsuit estimated that 80% of workers he hired were military veterans.
While their work generated billions of dollars in revenue for the companies being sued in the case, one defendant took in more than $16 billion in 2017 alone.
The lawsuit details how the aerospace industry was ripe for antitrust behavior, “The work performed by these employees is in limited supply, including because it is highly technical, often requiring degrees in aerospace engineering or another field of engineering or science related to aerospace systems.”
“Frankly, our attorneys are excited to further our work on this case, given the research possible before we’ve even hit the discovery phase,” Berman added. “This variety of wage-suppression antitrust case is exactly what motivates our firm, and our team looks forward to continuing this litigation and seeing how far this thread unravels.”
Hagens Berman has achieved many monumental settlements in antitrust lawsuits and wage-fixing, including a $168 million settlement for wage-fixing in the animation industry. The firm has also taken on aerospace giant Boeing in various litigation, including a $92 million securities settlement.
About Hagens Berman
Hagens Berman is a global plaintiffs’ rights complex litigation law firm with a tenacious drive for achieving real results for those harmed by corporate negligence and fraud. Since its founding in 1993, the firm’s determination has earned it numerous national accolades, awards and titles of “Most Feared Plaintiff’s Firm,” MVPs and Trailblazers of class-action law. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.