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Shipbuilders Accused Of No-Poach ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’


October 10, 2023

A pair of former warship designers filed a proposed class action in Virginia federal court against two major shipbuilders for the U.S. military, General Dynamics and Huntington Ingalls Industries, and other companies allegedly involved in a decades-long conspiracy to suppress their wages through a no-poach “gentlemen’s agreement.”

Plaintiffs Susan Scharpf and Anthony D’Armiento are seeking to represent a class of all people employed as naval architects, marine engineers or both in the United States by most of the defendants from Jan. 1, 2000, through “such date as defendants’ unlawful conduct ceases,” arguing that a no-poach conspiracy the companies have unofficially engaged in violates the Sherman Antitrust Act.

“Confidential witnesses have confirmed that, for decades, these companies and a close-knit, ‘incestuous’ community of their executives and managers have maintained an illegal agreement not to actively recruit, or ‘poach,’ each other’s employees,” the plaintiffs said Friday. “This unwritten ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ suppressed wages for naval engineers below competitive levels, depriving plaintiffs and the class of hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation.”

The defendants include General Dynamics and Huntington, which operate the only five shipyards in the country used to build large military vessels, as well as midsize shipbuilders Bollinger Shipyards and Marinette Marine, according to the suit.

Defendants Gibbs & Cox, JJMA/Serco, BMT Group, CSC/CACI, The Columbia Group, Thor Solutions, Tridentis, and a subsidiary of Huntington Ingalls are specialized engineering consultancies, and defendant Faststream Recruitment is a recruitment agency, according to the suit.

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The workers are represented by Brent W. Johnson, Robert W. Cobbs, Alison S. Deich and Zachary R. Glubiak of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, Rio S. Pierce, Steve W. Berman and Elaine T. Byszewski of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, and Rebecca P. Chang, Nicholas Jackson, William H. Anderson and Simon Wiener of Handley Farah & Anderson PLLC.

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