Crowell & Moring has set up a multi-disciplinary team in response to a new Justice Department “strike force” that seeks to crack down on price fixing and other antitrust-related crimes connected to government purchases of goods and services.
Crowell’s response team, made up of about 20 attorneys, will advise clients that are responding to the DOJ’s Procurement Collusion Strike Force, announced Nov. 5.
The new group draws from the firm’s antitrust, government contacts, and white collar and regulatory enforcement practice groups.
Crowell & Moring, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, has long had one of the largest and best-known government contracts practices in Big Law.
With this new project, the firm aims to help clients navigate what federal officials predict will be an increase in antitrust-related investigations in government procurement. These could come from DOJ, as well as the FBI, the U.S. Postal Service, and U.S. attorneys offices, as well as inspectors general from the Defense Department and other agencies. This could in turn lead to grand jury probes.
“Over a third of the Antitrust Division’s 100+ open grand jury investigations are dedicated to procurement fraud and undoubtedly, more are coming down the road,” Daniel Zelenko, a Crowell partner and chair of its white collar and regulatory enforcement group, said in a statement. “All companies doing business with the government at any level are potentially under the law enforcement microscope, putting a premium on prevention and training.”
The firm’s response team includes former antitrust prosecutors and government procurement fraud specialists.
At a Nov. 5 press conference, top Justice Department officials said a key goal of the strike force will be to train procurement officials nationwide to recognize suspicious conduct in procurement and grant-making processes—and to “aggressively” investigate those who may be violating antitrust laws.
“The investigation and prosecution of individuals and organizations that cheat, collude and seek to undermine the integrity of government procurement are priorities for this administration,” Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division said at the time.
Crowell government contracts partner Gail Zirkelbach said in a statement that a key for government contractors will be to review and enhance training and compliance programs, to avoid the government’s cross hairs.