The Procurement Collusion Strike Force is a DOJ, states Attorneys General, Department of Defense, and Federal Trade Commission joint effort to crack down on antitrust and anticompetitive activities in public procurement. It focuses on government contractors and looks for bid rigging, bribery, kickbacks, project substitution, set-aside fraud, and other anti-competitive behaviors.
For example, they obtained a guilty plea from an employee at the California Department of Transportation who conspired with two contractors to suppress bid competition in exchange for cash and gifts.
The strike force estimates that the US Government loses approximately $117 billion per year to bid rigging.
What does this mean for government contractors?
First, it means that no matter how large or how small your organization is, you could be touched by this enforcement effort. It’s going to be vital for you to craft and update an antitrust compliance policy and to ensure you understand what does and does not count as criminal anticompetitive behavior.
Second, it means you’re going to have to train your employees. For example, an employee may not realize that accepting sports tickets or meal invitations from a contractor might expose them to accusations of procurement fraud.
The consequences for being charged with any form of procurement fraud are quite serious. You could be fined for over a million dollars and imprisoned for up to ten years. In certain circumstances, fines can be even higher, as when the losses to the government or the defendant’s gains exceed $5,000,000 or the offense involved a conscious or reckless risk of serious personal injury. You may also lose your ability to bid for government contracts in the future.
In addition to being charged with major fraud against the United States, you could be charged with mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States, criminal false claims, false statements, obstruction of justice. You may also be charged with violations of the Procurement Integrity Act, the Civil False Claims Act, and the Federal Trade Secrets Act.
Owners, operators, and any employee directly involved with the fraud are all at-risk for being investigated and charged.
We are experienced federal white collar defense lawyers who can help you make the case that your attempts to secure business from the federal government were above-board. If that case cannot be made, we’re adept at negotiating deals with prosecutors that can minimize the impact of your procurement fraud charges.