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DOJ Secures Guity Plea in Bid-Rigging Case Involving Sales of Sports Equipment to Schools

Posted  May 17, 2024

The DOJ recently secured a guilty plea from an employee of a manufacturer and distributor of sports equipment for rigging bids to sell sports equipment to public schools. The employee pleaded guilty to his involvement in bid-rigging conspiracies in violation of the Sherman Act, the country’s principal antitrust statute, as well as a conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

According to the DOJ’s announcement, the employee (1) agreed with competing sports equipment distributors and others to “submit complementary bids to schools … to obtain procurements for school sports equipment and related services”; and (2) agreed to submit “false bids,” “used an unidentified individual’s identity without authorization,” and “forg[ed] the individual’s signature.”

Bid rigging by competitors is a per se illegal antitrust violation under the Sherman Act.  When competitors agree to rig their bids, it undermines the procurement and bidding process, and leads to higher prices or inferior goods and services provided.  Illegal bid rigging can occur in the private sector, harming customers, and illegal bid rigging can also occur in the public sector for government contracts, harming the government and, ultimately, taxpayers.  In the words of Jonathan Kanter, the head of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, “The charged criminal schemes harmed public schools by subverting their procurement processes and providing the false appearance of competition for precious taxpayer dollars.  …  The Antitrust Division and its partners will continue to protect taxpayers and students across the country by stopping bid rigging and fraud that targets government procurements wherever we find it, including at the state and local levels.”

This announcement comes on the heels of another guilty plea the DOJ secured in another bid-rigging case involving an anticompetitive conspiracy in the market for fuel truck services sold to the U.S. Forest Service.  (Read more about that one here.)

The DOJ takes bid rigging and other per se-illegal antitrust conspiracies very seriously, particularly when the rigged bids are for government contracts or procurement.  Indeed, the government’s Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF), created in 2019, is dedicated to combating bid rigging and other schemes in the government procurement or contracting context.

If you have any information of potential antitrust violations, such as bid-rigging schemes, that impact government purchases or procurement, or Medicare/Medicaid, and would like to speak to an experienced member of the Constantine Cannon whistleblower lawyer team, please do not hesitate to reach out and contact us for a free and confidential consult.