Paul Hastings Secures Rare No Contest Plea for Florida West
Paul Hastings, a leading global law firm, announced today a significant victory in securing a rare nolo contendre or no contest plea for client Florida West International Airways, an American cargo airline operator, in a price-fixing case brought by the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice.
The government had indicted Florida West for allegedly conspiring to fix shipment prices on northbound cargo shipments from Colombia to Miami. The company's former vice president, Rodrigo Hidalgo, was indicted in his personal capacity as well. In February, the District Court dismissed the charges against Mr. Hidalgo after evidence revealed that he was secretly working for a competitor while simultaneously employed by Florida West during the indictment period. That company had reached a separate agreement with the government and the Court ruled that Hidalgo was protected by a clause providing immunity for employees of that company.
The Paul Hastings team used these unique facts as a basis for filing a motion to enter a nolo plea. The government vigorously opposed the motion claiming that to permit it would undermine the Antitrust Division's vaunted leniency program. It also said that only one nolo plea had been permitted in a criminal antitrust case in the last 20 years. Judge Scola of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida rejected the government's claims agreeing with the arguments of the Paul Hastings team and accepted Florida Wests no contest plea. "It is difficult to imagine a case involving more unusual circumstances, the judge wrote in the order. The Government is seeking to hold Florida West partially responsible for the acts of a person who was actively deceiving Florida West."
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