Per Se Rule Applies in Heir Location Prosecution, Judge Grants United States’ Motion
In an opinion issued yesterday, the United States District Court for the District of Utah granted the United States’ Motion to Reconsider and found the per se rule applies to the horizontal customer agreement alleged in the indictment of heir location service providers Kemp & Associates and its Chief Operating Officer, Daniel J. Mannix.
“The Department is pleased that the Court granted our motion today and we look forward to trying this case to protect consumers who are harmed by the conduct alleged in the indictment,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim.
In granting the United States’ Motion, the Court found the “the agreement in the present case is a horizontal customer allocation agreement, and therefore subject to the Per Se approach.”
Heir location firms identify people who may be entitled to an inheritance from the estate of someone who died without a will. The heir location firms then enter into contracts with those people to help secure their inheritances in exchange for a fee.
The indictment alleges that the conspirators agreed to suppress and eliminate competition between them on estates they both pursued. Specifically, the indictment alleges that they agreed that the second company to solicit an heir on an estate would allocate that heir and the business of certain remaining heirs to the first company. In exchange for backing off, the first company would then pay the second company a portion of the contingency fees ultimately collected from the allocated heirs. The conspirators memorialized, monitored, enforced, and profited from this agreement from as early as September 1999 until as late as January 2014.