In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it intends to hold accountable anyone who commits antitrust violations—by fixing prices, rigging bids, or allocating customers—in connection with the manufacturing, distribution, or sale of public health products such as sterile gloves, face masks, respirators, and diagnostics.
DOJ also stated that its recently announced Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF) will be on high alert for collusive practices in the sale of any public health products to federal, state, and local agencies. The PCSF, announced in November of last year, consists of prosecutors from the Department’s Antitrust Division, prosecutors from 13 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, investigators from the FBI, and various federal Offices of the Inspector General. It is focused on deterring, investigating, and prosecuting antitrust crimes that undermine competition in government procurement, grant, and program funding.
The DOJ announcement comes as part of a broader administration effort to ensure that health care authorities, the private healthcare sector, and the public at large are in a strong position to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. Attorney General William P. Barr warned that the Department “stands ready to make sure that bad actors do not take advantage of emergency response efforts, healthcare providers, or the American people” during the outbreak.
Ballard Spahr’s Antitrust and Competition Group advises businesses on compliance with federal and state laws and regulations and represents them in civil and criminal antitrust cases.
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