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Commercial Carpet Consultants Inc., a Chicago-based commercial flooring contractor, and its former president, Jerry P. Watson, have been charged for a long-running conspiracy to rig bids and fix prices for commercial flooring products and services.
Commercial Carpet Consultants Inc. pleaded guilty to a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act and agreed to pay a $1.2 million criminal fine. It is the fourth corporation charged in the ongoing investigation. Jerry P. Watson also pleaded guilty and is the sixth individual to plead guilty in the investigation.
“The Antitrust Division and its law enforcement partners are committed to safeguarding competition in the American marketplace,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “These latest guilty pleas in the government’s investigation demonstrate our commitment to prosecuting anticompetitive conduct and holding companies and executives accountable.”
“There is no place for illegal price-fixing in the American marketplace,” said Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Buie Jr. of the FBI’s Chicago Field Division. “Anyone looking to profit by market manipulation should know that we won’t stop investigating unlawful collusion until justice is done.”
According to the one-count felony charge and plea agreements filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, Illinois, from at least as early as 2009 until at least June 22, 2017, the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition in the commercial flooring market by agreeing with other companies and individuals to submit complementary bids so that the designated company would win the contract.
A violation of the Sherman Act carries a statutory maximum penalty of a $100 million criminal fine for corporations. For individuals, violations of the Sherman Act carry maximum penalties of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The charges are the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into bid rigging, price fixing and other anticompetitive conduct in the commercial flooring industry, conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Chicago Office and the FBI’s Chicago Field Division.
Anyone with information in connection with this investigation should contact the Antitrust Division’s Complaint Center at 888-647-3258, or visit http://www.justice.gov/atr/report-violations.