November 15, 2018 / 8:11 PM / a year ago

U.S. Justice Department to curb bid-rigging in government purchases

FILE PHOTO - The U.S. Department of Justice building and the J. Edgar Hoover Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Building (L) are seen in Washington, U.S., February 1, 2018. U.S. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department plans to be more aggressive in pressing antitrust charges against companies that have rigged bids for government contracts, the agency’s antitrust chief said on Thursday.

Makan Delrahim, head of the antitrust division, made the remarks in a speech a day after the department settled bid-rigging charges with three South Korean companies which supplied fuel to U.S. military in that country.

SK Energy Co Ltd SKENGG.UL; GS Caltex Corp GSCAL.UL, 50 percent owned by Chevron CVX.N; and Hanjin Transportation Co Ltd (002320.KS) agreed to pay $236 million in civil damages and criminal fines, the department said on Wednesday.

The investigation is ongoing, said Delrahim.

Delrahim said few cases of bid-rigging had been prosecuted in the past decade in which the federal government was the victim, but he expected that to change.

In the next couple of months, the Justice Department will announce a task force on state and local conspiracies involving procurement fraud, said Delrahim.

Companies that come forward to report bid-rigging in procurement will pay lower damages and criminal fines, he added.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Richard Chang

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