The Competition Bureau (the "Bureau") recently
announced that criminal charges had been laid against a company and
an individual for their alleged role in rigging bids for
infrastructure projects in the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu region in
the Province of Québec. The alleged conduct took place
between January 2008 and December 2009.
A joint investigation by the Québec's permanent
anti-corruption squad (commonly known as the "UPAC") and
the Bureau uncovered a complex bid-rigging scheme which
ensured preferential treatment for a group of contractors
seeking to obtain municipal contracts for infrastructure
Under the Competition Act, bid-rigging is per
se illegal, meaning there is no need to demonstrate an
anti-competitive effect to obtain a conviction. Bid-rigging occurs
when two or more persons agree that, in response to a tender, one
or more of them will: (i) not submit a bid; (ii) withdraw a bid; or
(iii) submit a bid arrived at by agreement. The penalty for persons
convicted of bid-rigging is a fine in an amount to be determined by
the court (there is no limit on the size of the fine) and/or
imprisonment for up to five years.
Cooperation between the Bureau and UPAC has intensified in the
context of the Charbonneau Commission which was set up by the
Québec government in 2011 to investigate allegations of
significant corruption in the management of public construction
contracts. In June 2012, the agencies charged 11 individuals and 9
companies for a collusion scheme.
This recent enforcement action is consistent with the
Bureau's broader priority to aggressively enforce misconduct
related to the procurement activities of municipalities or other
public entities. Consistent with this enforcement priority, in May
2013, the Commissioner of Competition launched the Bureau's
whistleblowing initiative, to encourage reporting suspected
incidences of price-fixing, bid-rigging, and other anti-competitive
conduct (for more details about the Whistleblowing Initiative,
click here to see our post).
For a copy of the Bureau's press release, please click here.
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The Canadian Competition Bureau issued a template document for use as a form of Consent Agreement, to be filed with the Competition Tribunal to resolve concerns the Bureau may have with proposed mergers.
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