Two providers of foreign-language services, Comprehensive Language Center Inc. (CLCI), based in the Washington, D.C., area, and Berlitz Languages Inc. (Berlitz), based in New Jersey, were charged with participating in a conspiracy to defraud the United States by impeding, impairing, obstructing, and defeating competitive bidding for a multi-million dollar foreign-language training contract issued by the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2017, the Department of Justice announced today.
“These charges reaffirm the Antitrust Division’s commitment to combating anticompetitive conduct that victimizes government agencies,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “The actions of these companies corrupted the competitive bidding process put into place by the NSA for vital language training services.”
“The result of today’s announcement demonstrates the FBI’s enduring commitment to vigorously address allegations of all types of corruption that may obstruct or hinder the right to fair competition in the marketplace,” said Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. of the FBI Newark Field Office.
According to the one-count felony charges filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, Berlitz and CLCI participated in a conspiracy to defraud the United States by impeding, impairing, obstructing, and defeating competitive bidding for a contract to provide foreign-language training services to the NSA. According to court documents, as part of the conspiracy, Berlitz and CLCI facilitated the submission of false and misleading bid information to the NSA. As a result, competition was suppressed among legitimately qualified bidders for the contract, obstructing, by dishonest means, the government’s ability to benefit from a competitive bidding process. The charged conspiracy began as early as March 2017 and continued until as late as December 2017.
The Antitrust Division also announced deferred prosecution agreements resolving the charges against Berlitz and CLCI. Under the agreements, the companies admitted to participating in the charged conspiracy, agreed to cooperate fully with any related criminal investigation and prosecution, and agreed to maintain a compliance and ethics program designed to prevent and detect violations such as the one charged. Pursuant to the agreements, Berlitz also agreed to pay a $147,000 criminal penalty and CLCI agreed to pay a $140,000 criminal penalty, and both companies agreed that they were jointly and severally liable to pay $56,984 in victim compensation to the NSA.
Berlitz and CLCI are each charged with a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, which carries a maximum penalty of a $500,000 fine for companies.
The charges are the result of a federal antitrust investigation into fraud and anticompetitive conduct related to foreign-language training contracts being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s New York Office, with the assistance of the FBI’s Newark, New Jersey, Field Office and the NSA Office of the Inspector General. Anyone with information in connection with this investigation should contact the Antitrust Division’s New York Office at 212-335-8000 or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html.