The Justice Department has launched an initiative to identify and prosecute companies that exploit supply chain disruptions to overcharge consumers and collude with competitors, The Hill reports. The effort starts as pandemic-driven supply chain congestion drives up the cost of transporting and producing goods. The Biden administration has scrutinized oil producers, ocean carriers, meat processing companies and other industries for raising prices amid surging inflation. DOJ said it would prosecute companies that “seek to exploit supply chain disruptions for their own illicit gain.” The department is looking into agreements between companies to fix prices or wages, rig bids or allocate markets that violate antitrust laws.
“Temporary supply chain disruptions should not be allowed to conceal illegal conduct,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter, a critic of corporate consolidation. “The Antitrust Division will not allow companies to collude in order to overcharge consumers under the guise of supply chain disruptions.” DOJ's antitrust division formed a global working group to investigate supply chain collusion that will share intelligence with Australian, Canadian, British and New Zealand authorities. With Thursday’s announcement, the Biden administration is ramping up its price gouging efforts that have drawn pushback from business groups that say rising prices are primarily a function of supply and demand.