The Department of Justice is taking steps to mitigate any potential risks the public faces in relation to COVID-19. Due to the panic surrounding the pandemic, the public has been stocking up on health products such as face masks, hand sanitizer, and surgical gloves. To protect the public from anyone who seeks to improperly profit off of people’s fears, the DOJ is warning against violations of antitrust laws in the manufacturing, distribution, and sale of public health products such as face masks, respirators, and diagnostics.
Attorney General William P. Barr has said, “The Department of Justice stands ready to make sure that bad actors do not take advantage of emergency response efforts, health care providers, or the American people during this crucial time … I am committed to ensuring that the department’s resources are available to combat any wrongdoing and protect the public.”
Companies and individuals who violate antitrust laws by, for instance, fixing prices or rigging bids for personal health protection equipment could face criminal prosecution. In addition, on the civil side, authorities may also scrutinize vertical distribution or other practices that could limit supply or raise prices on impacted goods and services. The Procurement Collusion Strike Force will also be on high alert for collusive practices in the sale of public health products to federal, state, and local government agencies.
If you or your company is involved in any area of commerce impacted by the virus, such as the treatment of COVID-19 or the manufacturing or sale of public health products, please be very aware of the DOJ’s new directive.