By Jeffrey May, J.D.
A federal antitrust investigation into price fixing in the online promotional products industry has netted another online retail marketing company and its owner. Felony charges were filed late yesterday in the federal district court in Houston, naming Gennex Media d/b/a Brandnex.com and PMGOA, as well as the company's owner. It is anticipated that Gennex and owner Akil Kurji will each plead guilty to one count of conspiring to fix prices for customized promotional products, including wristbands, lanyards, temporary tattoos, and buttons. The challenged conduct took place between May 2014 and June 2016, according to the charges (U.S. v. Gennex Media LLC, Case 4:18-cr-00654; U.S. v. Kurji, Case 4:18-cr-00655).
These latest charges follow cases brought by the Department of Justice Antitrust Division in August 2017. E-commerce company Zaappaaz Inc. and its president Azim Makanojiya were the first targets of the investigation to agree to plead guilty. The Antitrust Division announced these first actions on August 7, 2017. On August 22, 2017, the government disclosed that Custom Wristbands Inc. and its top executive Christopher Angeles agreed to plead guilty to similar charges. According to the government, the conspirators attended meetings, or otherwise communicated via text and online messaging platforms regarding prices for the online sale of customized promotional products.
A sentencing hearing for Angeles is scheduled for later this month. Makanojiya’s sentencing is set for April 2019.
Private suits. The government’s investigation and charges have prompted the filing of a number of private antitrust suits against the companies and their executives. An effort to centralize cases for pretrial procedures was rejected by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in February 2018.
Companies: Gennex Media LLC; Custom Wristbands Inc.; Zaappaaz Inc.
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