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Keker & Van Nest Wins Motion to Sever Antitrust Counts


A California federal judge on Monday severed antitrust counts against the former CEO of SK Foods LP from an indictment charging him with bribing purchasing agents of several companies, including Frito-Lay Inc., Kraft Foods Inc. and Safeway Inc., to buy the company's products.

In granting a defense motion, U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton said the antitrust allegations did not belong alongside the racketeering and honest services fraud counts against former tomato magnate Frederick Salyer.

"The acts and transactions in this case are not the same, and the indictment does not even suggest that they are," the judge wrote in his decision.

Prosecutors fought Salyer's motion to sever, arguing that the charges were connected because they were all "designed to accomplish a common goal: to enrich the defendant and his co-conspirators by artificially inflating the price of SK Foods' products."

But Judge Karlton said that a common goal is not sufficient cause to bind otherwise unrelated charges.

Prosecutors accuse Salyer of engaging in a far-reaching scheme to swindle SK Foods’ customers by artificially inflating prices on tomato products, fraudulently locking competitors out of the market and duping purchasers into buying low-quality products.

FBI agents raided Salyer's tomato processing plant in April 2008 because they thought he and his rivals had conspired to fix the prices of tomato paste. The companies had limited approval to agree on prices of exported tomato products, but prosecutors say their alleged anti-competitive behavior also occurred within the U.S.

Salyer was charged with racketeering, honest services fraud and obstruction of justice in February 2010. In April 2010, a new indictment added the allegations of price-fixing.

Salyer is represented by John W. Keker, Elliot R. Peters, Brian L. Ferrall and Paven Malhotra of Keker & Van Nest LLP and Malcolm S. Segal of Segal & Kirby LLP.

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Since founding the firm with law school classmate Bill Brockett in 1978, John Keker has built a reputation as one of the country's top trial lawyers. Four decades of jury trials in white collar criminal cases, complex commercial and intellectual property cases, antitrust and securities cases, even palimony cases, establish him as the lawyer clients turn to for their most important and high-profile litigation problems.

For three decades Elliot Peters has litigated, tried and advised clients in some of the nation's most high-profile, high-stakes complex commercial and white collar criminal cases. Mr. Peters has tried more than 50 cases on behalf of CEOs, leading law firms, and major corporations. He has been named Attorney of the Year by California Lawyer and The Recorder, was named the Litigator of the Week by The American Lawyer, and was named one of the Top 100 Attorneys in California by the Daily Journal. 

Brian Ferrall represents technology and biomedical clients as both plaintiff and defendant in high-stakes trade secret, patent and other intellectual property disputes, as well as in contract disputes, unfair business practices and antitrust litigation.

Paven Malhotra’s practice focuses on complex commercial and white collar criminal litigation, including intellectual property, legal malpractice, securities, and antitrust. Mr. Malhotra has been an active member of three trial teams, serving as one of the principal associates in one of the largest trade secrets cases ever tried in California. He has also represented various media companies, news outlets, and production companies in litigation and administrative proceedings, as well as maintained an active pro bono practice.