The Department of Justice has announced the formation of the new Procurement Collusion Strike Force, which will focus on deterring, detecting, investigating, and prosecuting antitrust crimes.
At a press conference held Nov. 5, Department of Justice officials explained that the Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF) will be an interagency partnership consisting of prosecutors from the Antitrust Division, prosecutors from 13 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, and investigators from the FBI, the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General, and other partner federal Offices of Inspector General.
“The investigation and prosecution of individuals and organizations that cheat, collude, and seek to undermine the integrity of government procurement are priorities for this administration,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim. “The PCSF will train and educate procurement officials nationwide to recognize and report suspicious conduct in procurement, grant and program funding processes. We will aggressively investigate and prosecute those who violate our antitrust laws.”
“The Antitrust Division and its law enforcement partners have a history of prosecuting criminal antitrust conspiracies that take advantage of government contracts,” the Justice Department said. In late 2018 and early 2019, for example, five South Korean oil companies agreed to plead guilty for their involvement in a decade-long bid-rigging conspiracy that targeted contracts to supply fuel to U.S. military bases in South Korea.
The Antitrust Division also indicted seven individuals for conspiring to rig bids and to defraud the government, and one executive was also charged with obstruction of justice. In total, the companies have agreed to pay $156 million in criminal fines and over $205 million in separate civil settlements. This year, the Justice Department, in partnership with the GSA Office of Inspector General, also indicted individuals for involvement in rigging bids submitted to the GSA.
The PCSF has also launched a publicly available website, where government procurement officials and members of the public can review information about the federal antitrust laws and training programs and report suspected criminal activity affecting public procurement.