Martin McNulty was an executive in the packaged-ice industry. His employer, Arctic Glacier, and other ice producers allegedly decided to cut the southeastern Michigan market into cubes, a big antitrust no-no, and wanted McNulty to play along.
In fact, McNulty claims, he was told that if he didn’t, he could count on being frozen out of any job in the ice industry.
McNulty says when he balked, Arctic Glacier fired him.
McNulty went to the feds and told them everything. In the end, Arctic Ice pleaded to a conspiracy to allocate customers. Sales of packaged ice affected by the conspiracy totaled $50.7 million. The government recommended a $9 million fine.
Big Ice is apparently big business.
McNulty says he tried to find other work in the ice industry but, as allegedly promised, was blackballed.
His house went into foreclosure, his credit rating was trashed and he’s still out of work. McNulty figured all of this cost him $6.2 million.
At Arctic Glacier’s sentencing, McNulty said he should get that amount under the Crime Victims’ Compensation Act. The federal judge turned him down.
McNulty did no better in the 6th Circuit.
The problem, explained Judge Boyce F. Martin, Jr., is that McNulty is not a crime victim as far as the CVRA is concerned. Martin noted that McNulty’s alleged difficulties arose from refusing to take part in the conspiracy and subsequent “‘blackballing’ from employment” until he quit talking to the government.
If proven, these would indeed be harms to McNulty, but they are not criminal in nature, nor is there any evidence that they are normally associated with the crime of antitrust conspiracy.
To fire an employee and prevent a former employee from being hired by another company may be illegal under the civil law, but they are not inherently criminal actions, nor are they actions inherent in the crime of conspiracy to violate antitrust laws to which Arctic Glacier pled. Civil, not criminal, remedies are available to redress these actions.
Legally impecable reasoning, to be sure, but hardly a heart-warming result for McNulty.
The case is In re McNulty.