An Ottawa company has been fined $125,000 after pleading guilty to bid-rigging on federal real estate advisory contracts.

Corporate Research Group Ltd. (CRG) pleaded guilty today in an Ottawa court to a criminal charge of bid-rigging. The company is also under a court order that prohibits it from engaging in any conduct contrary to the bid-rigging provisions in the Competition Act and will have to create and adhere to a compliance program.

"We'll be keeping a real close eye on them and that's in effect for the next five years," said Phil Norris, a spokesman for the Competition Bureau, an independent law enforcement agency tasked with monitoring and enforcing a competitive marketplace.

The Competition Bureau launched an investigation in May 2009, after the Department of Public Works and Government Services Canada alerted it to the possibility of bid-rigging following a request for standing offers for real estate advisory services. Public Works is the department in charge of real estate for the federal government.

The call for bids came in 2007. CRG officials admit they and Louis Facchini, who runs First Porter Consultancy in Carp, Ont., submitted co-ordinated bids under an agreement that was not disclosed to Public Works, a news release from the Competition Bureau says.

Competition Bureau officials noted several similarities between the bids during their investigation, Norris said. The two bids combined would have given the companies 80 per cent of the department's real estate consulting work.

More than $300,000 charged for work

CRG charged the government $312,000 for the work awarded.

While CRG pleaded on Monday, there is still an investigation into First Porter, Norris said, declining to comment on where that case stands.

CRG co-operated under the bureau's leniency program, which "[creates] incentives for parties to address their criminal liability by co-operating with the bureau in its ongoing investigation and prosecution of other alleged cartel participants," the news release said.

"We have an obligation to conduct all of our investigations very ... thoroughly. Depending on various factors, things can take a little longer in some cases and faster in others," Norris said.

Under the Competition Act, it is a criminal offence for two or more bidders to agree among themselves on the bids submitted, to agree that one party will refrain from bidding or to agree to withdraw a submitted bid, without informing the person calling for the bids of this agreement.