For Immediate Release - March 11, 2011

AG Coakley Recovers Money From Debarred Company Over Attempted Bid-Rigging Violations at UMass Dartmouth Dorms

BOSTON - Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office has entered into a settlement with Norwell-based Signet Electronic Systems, Inc. ("Signet") and Signet Vice President Daniel Chauvin to resolve claims stemming from a 2009 Inspector General's report which identified alleged attempted bid-rigging on the 2007 renovations of the Cedar Dell dormitories at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Dartmouth. To resolve the matter, Signet will pay $7,500 to the Commonwealth. Signet is currently prohibited by the Division of Capital Asset Management (DCAM) from bidding on public contracts in the Commonwealth.

In 2007, the general contractor in charge of renovations at the Cedar Dell dormitories issued bid specifications for electrical sub-contracting work for the fire alarm system. Signet and competing distributers provide quotes on such systems to electrical sub-contractors, who rely upon such quotes in their bids to general contractors. Competition among distributors helps to maintain a fair market price in bidding for public projects.

In this case Signet, through Chauvin, attempted to persuade other distributors not to submit competing quotes on the second phase of a bid put out by UMass Dartmouth. The attempt was uncovered and the bidding authority was able to issue a re-bid in an openly competitive environment, avoiding any overcharge to taxpayers. Had the attempt succeeded, however, Signet could have established itself as the only choice for fire alarm installation services for the renovation work at the dormitories.

"Agreements not to compete on public contracts undermine the public bidding process and can lead public agencies to pay above the fair market price," said Attorney General Coakley. "Companies must understand that attempts to form such agreements are unacceptable and my office will take action whether or not they are successful."

"The Attorney General is sending a clear message to contractors that the Commonwealth will not tolerate these types of clandestine practices," said Inspector General Gregory Sullivan.

Under the settlement, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, Signet and Chauvin must pay $7,500 to the Commonwealth, and must abide by conduct restrictions in order to prevent future violations. Signet is also currently debarred from competing on public work with the Commonwealth as a result of an administrative action by DCAM pertaining to related allegations of bidding and antitrust violations.

This case was handled by Michael Franck and Matthew Lyons, Assistant Attorneys General in Attorney General Martha Coakley's Antitrust Division. The matter was referred by the Office of the Inspector General.