The Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF) is a district-based, virtual strike force, where dedicated Division attorneys work with Assistant U.S. Attorneys and agents from federal, state, and local entities with two complementary goals: conducting outreach to increase awareness and deterrence of antitrust and other criminal violations in government contracts, grants, and programs; and leveraging the combined talents and resources of the enforcement community to detect, investigate, and prosecute violations. Since its launch in November 2019, the initial PCSF’s 13 district teams, consisting of Division attorneys and agents from five partner agencies immediately started discovering like-minded agents, investigators, prosecutors, and analysts in their areas of responsibility and training scores of individuals in recognizing antitrust red flags.
Its first year generated waves of interest, training requests, and leads, spurring the PCSF to expand last November. It welcomed nine U.S. Attorney’s Offices and two new national partners: the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the Department of Homeland Security OIG. To date, the Strike Force is active in almost a quarter of U.S. judicial districts and coordinates with 486 members from 48 agencies and offices.
The PCSF recognizes that the first step in opening investigations and bringing prosecutions is awareness. The PCSF has sponsored trainings on recognizing antitrust crimes to over 10,000 agents, investigators, analysts, auditors, attorneys, and procurement officers from over 500 offices and agencies. As PCSF attorneys and agents followed up on the resulting potential collusion tips, they uncovered conduct to contribute to the nearly three dozen PCSF-related investigations opened to date.
PCSF investigations span the range of procurement collusion and fraud matters, from defense and national security to public works projects, and from domestic investigations into conduct primarily within a single district to international investigations into conduct affecting U.S. government procurement in multiple states, nationwide, and overseas. One investigation involving eleven offices and agencies reflects the PCSF’s incredible partnerships.
District teams are not the only way Division prosecutors get involved in the PCSF—many instead tackle leveraging bid data and partnering with agencies to implement collusion analytics through the PCSF Data Analytics Project. The Data Analytics Project began the conversation about the use of data analytics to combat bid rigging with four webinars in 2020. More than 1,000 data scientists, analysts, and auditors attended these virtual workshops, and the PCSF plans more in the coming year. Afterwards, Data Analytics Project attorneys engaged with dozens of agency analytics shops in order to encourage them to build analytical tools to detect collusion; the attorneys offered training in suspicious bid patterns and provided connections to other analytics teams. Other recent efforts include interfacing with procurement platforms as sources of data and advocating for collection and retention of bid data across government.
The Data Analytics Project is not the PCSF’s only new endeavor. PCSF presentations to international groups and Division investigations with foreign competition authorities paved the way for the PCSF to launch PCSF: Global, an effort to build connections with enforcement counterparts and tackle potential collusion in bids for the staggering amount of U.S. funds spent abroad. Division attorneys in the criminal and international sections are working on this project.
As the PCSF begins its second year with expanded ranks, it is gearing up to bring investigations to the recommendation and disposition stage, to build out the PCSF data analytics program, and to expand its reach with PCSF: Global.