In 2019, the Department of Justice created the Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF or Strike Force), a joint law enforcement effort to combat antitrust crimes and related fraudulent schemes that impact government procurement, grant, and program funding at all levels of government—federal, state and local. The PCSF is a constellation of partnerships among the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, multiple U.S. Attorneys’ Offices around the country, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Inspectors General for multiple federal agencies working together to crack down on unlawful anticompetitive activities in the public procurement process. As we have previously discussed,[i] the PCSF has been steadily growing its footprint and focus since its inception in November 2019. Now four years in, the Strike Force continues to add new partners at the Federal, State and global level, boasting of more than 30,000 government officials trained in detection and prosecution of procurement offenses. The Strike Force touts its growing ranks of trained eyes and ears on the ground anywhere government funds are spent. The PCSF is sending an increasingly aggressive enforcement message that should put those engaged with government contracts, federal funds, and procurement officials on high alert.
PCSF Director Daniel Glad recently extolled the Strike Force as active and aggressive:
“We are collaborating across the law enforcement community, both domestically and internationally, to conduct proactive investigations targeted at key sectors of our economy. In those proactive investigations, we are deploying more aggressive tools such as wiretaps, undercover agents, data analysis and human source development.”
This proactivity is evident in the 115+ investigations initiated by the PCSF and the 50+ pleas or convictions secured thus far. These convictions have serious consequences; procurement-focused antitrust and fraud offenses can result in civil and criminal violations that risk fines, jail time, and debarment from government contracting. Civil, private, treble-damage antitrust or false claims actions can also follow. Underscoring these risks, Sheppard Mullin has seen firsthand the Strike Force’s expanding view of alleged anticompetitive activity, devoting PCSF attention and tools to previously un-examined activities and exploring novel no-poach or criminal monopolization theories of criminal antitrust enforcement that were previously only treated as civil matters.
Government Contractors are not defenseless against the PCSF’s onslaught of investigative power. Sheppard Mullin recently hosted a webinar on the high-risk practices to look out for and proactive steps companies can take to prevent an antitrust violation. Click here to view the webinar, and/or reach out to Ann O’Brien and Joe Jay with compliance question. For regular updates on PCSF’s activity, follow Sheppard Mullin’s ongoing blog updates.