George Kolbe writes to remind us that bid rigging is a felony.
"Agreements among buyers at auctions not to bid against each
other for the purpose of purchasing goods at low and
non-competitive prices can be a criminal violation of the federal
anti-trust laws, punishable by heavy fines and imprisonment.
Section 1 of the Sherman Act (15 U.S.C. § 1) prohibits bid
rigging or pooling agreements among competitors if they affect
or restrain interstate commerce. Upon conviction, individuals
are subject to a maximum fine of $250,000 and/or three years'
Bid rigging, or "pooling," consists of any agreement between
bidders at auction which lessens competition between them. In
recent years, the U. S. Government and private parties have
brought lawsuits to restrain and/or penalize bid rigging in art and
collectibles auctions. Pooling agreements can be attractive to
buyers who do not understand that it is illegal. Not only is bid
rigging a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act, it is a "per se"
violation, meaning that once a bid rigging or pooling agreement
has been found, the Government does not have to show that
prices were actually affected by the arrangement. In other words,
it would not be a defense that the presence of other bidders at
the auction caused the books or other items to sell for their fair
market value anyway.
In the 1988 case of United States versus Ronald Pook, antique
dealers were convicted of pooling at antique auctions. More
recently, several dealers pleaded guilty to pooling at an auction
of rare bank notes at Christie's in New York."
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