Companies involved in the government contracting industry should take note that the government is honing in on anticompetitive conduct affecting government procurements. The federal government has demonstrated an increased interest in this area, and companies should refresh and audit their compliance programs to avoid hefty civil and criminal penalties and potential prison terms for implicated employees.
Second Circuit Clarifies Fifth Amendment Law, with Implications for US Prosecution of International Cartels
On July 19, 2017, the Second Circuit vacated the convictions and dismissed the indictments of two individuals accused of playing a role in the manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). United States v. Allen, No. 16-898-cr, Slip Op. at 3 (2d Cir. July 19, 2017). The ruling was based on the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution, which provides that “[n]o person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” US Const. amend. V. The Second Circuit’s decision clarifies that this protection against self-incrimination is an “absolute” “trial right” that applies to all criminal defendants in US courts (including non-citizens) and to all compelled testimony (including testimony given during a foreign government’s investigation). United States v. Allen, No. 16-898-cr, Slip Op. at 55. The court’s clarification of the Fifth Amendment’s scope has important implications for US antitrust enforcers prosecuting international cartels and for individuals ensnared in cross-border criminal investigations alike.
On May 8, 2015, a jury in Puerto Rico acquitted Thomas Farmer (Farmer), the former vice president of price and yield management for Crowley Liner Services, Inc., of conspiring to suppress and eliminate competition in violation of Sherman Act, Section 1. The case is United States v. Thomas Farmer (3:13-cr-00162) in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico.
In March 2013, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted Farmer. The DOJ accused him of conspiring with competing shipping companies, from mid-2005 through April 2008, to fix rates and surcharges for freight transported between the United States and Puerto Rico. The DOJ alleged that Farmer and competing shipping executives participated in meetings, conversations, and communications where they agreed to allocate customers; fix and inflate prices; and rig bids submitted to government and commercial customers. The type of freight in the alleged conspiracy included heavy equipment, medicines, food, beverages and consumer goods.
While the jury acquitted Farmer, other shipping executives have either pled or been found guilty of similar charges. In January 2013, a Puerto Rican jury convicted, Frank Peake (Peake), the former president of Sea Star Line LLC. Peake was sentenced in December 2013 to five years in prison, which at the time was the longest prison sentence for a Sherman Act violation. In addition, five other shipping executives have pled guilty and been sentenced to prison terms ranging from seven months to four years.