The business of government contracting is a high-risk, high-reward activity. Many contractors, large and small, relish the opportunity to profit while also directly providing critically needed products and services to the government.
That opportunity, however, comes with a risk many would-be government contractors may be unaware of: the increasing presence and aggressiveness of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in prosecuting bid-rigging, collusion, and price-fixing cases in this area. These criminal cases often result in jail time for the executives of these companies.
This article will focus on the Sherman Act (15 U.S.C. §1), specifically the criminal antitrust considerations that government contractors face. The Sherman Act prohibits competitors from agreeing to fix prices or rig bids. A violation of the Sherman Act is a felony and may be punishable by a fine of up to $100 million and/or ten years in jail.
The implications of the Sherman Act are critical for government contractors to understand because of the unique aspects of their business. Also, these characteristics of the business of contracting with the government make the antitrust analysis more complex. This article will focus on recent cases in this area and the ramifications for contractors. The article will conclude with some practical tips for antitrust and government contract counsel.
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