Thursday, March 3, 2016

Big Payday for Whistleblowers

The Natural Resources Defense Council and several former employees of Lockheed Martin filed a lawsuit under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provision of the False Claims Act (FCA) alleging that Lockheed misrepresented its compliance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to the Department of Energy and as a result, knowingly submitted false claims for payment under its contracts with DOE. The whistleblower provision of the FCA permits private parties to file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims and obtain a portion of the Government's recovery. In this case, the Government recovered $5 million and the whistleblowers will collectively receive $920 thousand.

The lawsuit alleged that Lockheed violated the statute that establishes how hazardous wastes must be managed, by failing to identify and report hazardous waste produced and stored at the facility, and failing to properly handle and dispose of the waste.

Lockheed operated the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant under contracts with DOE from 1984 to 1999. During that time, Lockheed was responsible for the facility's uranium enrichment operations and for environmental restoration, waste management, and custodial care at the site.

In announcing the settlement, the U.S. Attorney stated:
Government contractors are required to follow the same federal laws that apply to everyone else. These companies do not get a pass on compliance, especially when their responsibilities include managing and disposing of hazardous waste. Today's settlement should serve as a reminder that ...the Department of Justice will pursue all credible allegations of false claims and of environmental regulatory violations.
Whistleblowers provide a valuable service in ferreting out fraud, waste, and abuse. Whistleblowing is not the mother lode however. Relatively few whistleblower cases are enjoined by the Government (based on our anecdotal evidence) which means the whistleblower, if he/she wants to proceed, must go it alone. That cost money and many attorneys are unwilling to take such cases on contingencies and as a result, the law suits simply die.

You can read the full DoJ press release on this case by clicking here.

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