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NJ Procurement Collusion Strike Force Defense Attorneys

November 3, 2020 New Jersey Criminal Lawyers
Procurement Collusion Strike Force Defense Attorneys
As of November 2019, the Department of Justice has created a Procurement Collusion Strike Force team that works to investigate people and entities that are suspected of defrauding the government. These entities may include government contracting companies and healthcare workers that bill Medicare. Working with the government means being at risk of being investigated for fraud. The DOJ investigates government fraud through the False Claims Act and a handful of other statutes. The goal is to stop losing billions of dollars to fraud every year.

The formation of the PCSF was announced on November 5 of 2019. The goal of the team is to detect, deter, prosecute, and investigate crimes like bid-rigging conspiracies. Rather than focusing on the entire nation, the strike force has started by focusing on 13 jurisdictions nationwide. These include:

  • Central California
  • Eastern California
  • Colorado
  • Washington D.C.
  • South Florida
  • North Georgia
  • North Illinois
  • East Michigan
  • South New York
  • South Ohio
  • East Pennsylvania
  • North Texas
  • East Virginia

These districts include some of the most densely populated cities in the country. The list covers Los Angeles, Sacramento, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, New York City, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and Dallas, amidst many other less populated cities and rural county areas.

The strike force is coordinated by the DOJ along with help from agent across a variety of local, state, and federal agencies. Federal agencies working with the DOJ on the PCSF include the Department of Defense, General Services Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and US Postal Service.

Focus on Collusion

There have been other strike force teams in the past, which have been assembled to eradicate prescription and Medicare fraud. However, this strike force is focused on collusive government fraud like antitrust violations. The PCSF website explains this through a DOJ resource that walks people through the red flags of conspiracy. By using the acronym MAPS, the PCSF has designated its primary targets.

MAPS is an acronym that explains the “red flags” that may cause a government contractor or healthcare provider to come under scrutiny.

Market

Certain market factors may indicate collusion. If a contract bid meets any of these factors, it may be subject to investigation:

  • Few contractors compete for the bid
  • A small number of large competing companies control a large portion of the market
  • The good or service has been standardized so that the government doesn’t have to worry about quality, and is instead making decisions based purely on price

Application

If competing contractors have too many similarities in their applications, they may be suspected of collusion. Government contractors may be the subject of scrutiny if:

  • Their proposals have similar mathematical errors, typos, or handwriting
  • Their proposals come from the same account or IP address
  • Their proposals indicate that price quotes were altered at the last minute
  • Multiple proposals are shown by metadata to have been created by just one entity

Patterns

The Department of Justice looks for certain patterns that indicate bid collusion. A contractor may be subject to a PCSF investigation if:

  • Companies in competition seem to rotate the “winner” of regular contract work
  • Companies in competition win similar amounts of government work during recurring contracts
  • A single company is always the winner of a bid despite the competition
  • A company that wins the bid allows the losing companies to enter the project as subcontractors
  • Fewer bidders are submitting proposals for the same projects when compared to the previous years

Suspicion

The final component is suspicion. If people or companies engage in certain types of suspicious behavior, the DOJ may investigate them. Some types of suspicious behavior are:

  • One company submitting multiple contract proposals
  • A company that cannot complete the work submits a proposal
  • A representative of a company indicates that they already know what price a competitor has set or how likely they are of winning the bid

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