In a case that helps to ensure fair competition for court reporting services nationwide, Esquire Deposition Solutions LLC (Esquire) has settled a lawsuit that accused members of the Louisiana Board of Certified Shorthand Reporters (Board) of price-fixing and violations of the antitrust laws.
Among other stipulations, the settlement:
- Prohibits the defendants from price-fixing, restricting price competition among and between court reporters and court reporting firms, or prohibiting volume discounts and other fee discounts for shorthand reporting and other court reporting services;
- Requires the Board to adopt an antitrust compliance policy and oversight program to ensure that the Board complies with antitrust laws; and
- Requires the court reporter Board member defendants to conclude their service on the Board.
As a leader among national court reporting firms, Esquire pursued this litigation to uphold the integrity of the industry and to ensure justice for clients, court reporters, and other court reporting agencies.
“We sued the Board under the antitrust laws to ensure that all consumers benefit from healthy competition,” said Avi Stadler, general counsel of Esquire Deposition Solutions. “Clients deposing witnesses in Louisiana benefit from more available service providers at competitive prices. Additionally, court reporters in Louisiana win through greater opportunities to expand their business without fear and can safely partner with a national court reporting agency to serve consumers in the state.”
Terrie Campbell, chief executive officer of Esquire, said, “As a national court reporting agency, we take this seriously. It is critical that all court reporting agencies, boards, and clients follow established rules to ensure that our industry maintains credibility that is critical to recordkeeping integrity for our court system. At its core, this case involved fundamental ethics issues. The entire Esquire organization and I fully recognize and support the important role that national and local court reporting boards play in regulating ethics and ensuring ethical behavior. But when board members who govern the court reporters are themselves not behaving in an ethical way, the very foundation becomes unstable.”
Esquire sued the court reporter members of the Board in their official and individual capacities and the non-court reporting Board members in their official capacities. The lawsuit alleged that the Board used its regulatory authority to raise court reporting rates in Louisiana to among the highest in the nation, deterring court reporters from doing business with national court reporting firms, including Esquire, and deliberately attempting to disrupt the commercial relationships between insurance companies and national firms like Esquire.
During discovery, Esquire obtained audio recordings in which current and former members of the Board allegedly openly and illegally discussed their boycott and price-fixing efforts. Other damning admissions captured in audio recordings, meeting transcripts, or documents include that the defendants allegedly launched investigations against court reporters suspected of accepting work from national providers, harassed companies and law firms suspected of using national providers; formally discouraged court reporters from accepting assignments from national providers; and formed committees and adopted rules for the purpose of discouraging court reporters from accepting assignments from national providers.
Esquire Deposition Solutions is a leading national provider of remote and in-person court reporting, video, and interpreting services for law firms, insurance companies, and corporate legal departments, supporting more than 150,000 depositions annually.