The Justice Department is stepping up efforts to target bid-rigging and other types of collusion that cheat the government in the contracting process, reports the Wall Street Journal. DOJ announced a new strike force to focus on procurement collusion, which occurs when companies seeking business with the government agree among themselves on what prices or bids they will submit. The government spends more than $550 billion annually on contracts for goods and services, including defense spending.
The new effort is focused on prosecuting violations that suppress competition and artificially raise costs for contracts, as well as on boosting procurement training designed to head off antitrust crimes before they occur. Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, head of DOJ’s antitrust division, said more than a third of the division’s 100-plus open criminal investigations relate to public procurement or otherwise involve the government being a victim of criminal conduct. The announcement comes after Justice Department cases targeting South Korean companies that rigged bids and fixed prices for fuel supplied to U.S. military bases. The department has started bringing cases that target distortions of the bidding process in auctions run by the General Services Administration, which sells surplus computer equipment and other goods no longer needed by government agencies.