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From Antitrust Law Daily, May 5, 2015

Real estate investor to plead guilty for bid rigging conspiracy

By Greg Hammond, J.D.

Northern California real estate investor Wayne Lippman has agreed to plead guilty for conspiring to rig bids at public real estate foreclosures in Alameda County, California. Felony charges were filed yesterday in the federal district court in Oakland (U.S. v. Lippman, Crim. No. CR15-00245).

The information alleges that Lippman engaged in a combination and conspiracy to suppress and restrain competition by rigging bids to obtain properties offered at public auctions in Alameda County, in unreasonable restraint of interstate trade and commerce, in violation of the Sherman Act. The combination and conspiracy involved a continuing agreement and concerted action to suppress competition by agreeing to refrain from bidding against each other to purchase certain properties. The defendants additionally designated which co-conspirator would win certain properties; purchased properties at artificially suppressed prices; made or received payoffs for agreeing not to compete; and held private auctions to determine payoff amounts.

“This plea is the latest step in the Antitrust Division’s ongoing efforts to hold investors accountable for colluding at foreclosure auctions and denying lenders and homeowners the fair market value of their property,” stated Assistant Attorney General William J. Baer of the Justice Department Antitrust Division. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute collusion at real estate foreclosure auctions and to restore confidence in the housing market.”

The information against Lippman is the Antitrust Division’s latest action in its ongoing investigation into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in northern California.

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