State ex rel. Cooper v. McClure, 2007 NCBC 24 (N.C. Super. July 19, 2007)(Tennille)

The Court granted Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, ruling that the defendants had participated in a conspiracy in restraint of trade with regard to public contracts for the remediation of underground storage tanks. The Court found that the defendants had engaged in an orchestrated effort to submit artificially high bids in response to a solicitation for bids from a state agency. The defendants had done this by submitting an inaccurate survey to the state agency as to what a reasonable rate for their services would be, and by encouraging the members of their organization to quote that rate to the agency, even though they knew that it was inflated.

The Court held that the term "restraint of trade" is broad, and includes the collusive provision of false market data that will be used to set prices. The Court held that as a result, the bidding process for the state contract was not competitive, and that a number of firms would have submitted lower bids but for the conspiracy.

On the point of damages, the Court awarded 10% of the face amount of the contracts awarded, as provided for by N.C.G.S. §133-28(a), which it then trebled, pursuant to N.C.G.S. §75-16. The Court gave defendants a credit against the judgment for payments made by settling defendants.

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