Friday, June 21, 2019

Contractor Pays $300 Thousand to Settle False Claims Allegations

A Philadelphia-based company, 'Support of Microcomputers Associates' or SOMA, has agreed to a $300 thousand judgment for selling foreign-sourced computer supplies (i.e. printers and other equipment) to Federal agencies.

For an eight year period, SOMA sold computer supplies and accessories under GSA's (General Services Administration's 'Advantage' program which provides a web-based ordering system for federal agencies. Companies selling under the GSA Advantage program certify that the materials they sell are permitted for sale under the Trade Agreement Act. This Act provide for the United States and its agencies to purchase American-made materials or materials manufactured in specified allied countries. In violation of this Act and contrary to its certification, SOMA offered for sale to Government agencies, printers and other materials manufactured in China, Vietnam, and other non-compliant countries.

The Government's investigation began when a former executive of SOMA filed a qui tam (or whistleblower) action under the False Claims Act. Qui tam provisions permit private parties to sue for false claims on behalf of the Government and to receive a share of any recovery. The former executive will receive a share of the $300 thousand settlement but the Justice Department's press release announcing this settlement did not specify the amount. We guess the amount would be less than $100 thousand from which the executive's attorneys will want their cut.

The $300 thousand settlement was based on (i) SOMA's ability to pay and (ii) the company's cooperation in the investigation. That means there is a good chance that the company sold non-compliant goods for much more than that.

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