DOJ Warns Against Collusion/Fraud in Hurricane Ida Relief Efforts

By: Robert Connolly (Cartel Capers)

On Tuesday, September 14, 2021, the Antitrust Division issued a press release announcing a joint statement with the Federal Trade Commission warning contractors and vendors not to take advantage of the situation created by Hurricane Ida and collude on prices.  See, Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission Issue Joint Statement to Preserve Competition in Post-Hurricane Relief Efforts.

While noting that the antitrust laws allow procompetitive collaboration between competitors, the DOJ press release warned: “The Antitrust Division and its law enforcement partners will not tolerate businesses and individuals who prey upon hurricane victims or seek to corrupt relief efforts… In the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, the division’s Procurement Collusion Strike Force will leverage every tool in its arsenal to root out collusion, corruption and fraud targeting disaster relief.”

The Statement of the Department of Justice Antitrust Division and Federal Trade Commission on Preserving Competition in the Wake of Hurricane Ida is similar to joint statements issued by the agencies during the COVID pandemic and also following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in 2017.

This effort is laudable and an excellent use of prosecutorial resources.  As the press release says“When a disaster like Hurricane Ida strikes, it’s unconscionable for any company to exploit the tragedy for their own financial gain….”  This initiative, however, would be vastly improved if Congress created an incentive for witnesses to come forward, such as the criminal antitrust whistleblower statute proposed by Senator Amy Klobuchar…