The U.S. Department of Justice announced a record $5.69 billion in settlements and judgments from civil cases involving fraud and false claims against the government in fiscal year 2014. Of this total, the government paid out $435 million to the whistle blowers who exposed fraud and false claims by filing a qui tam complaint — in 2014 alone.
Growth In The Use Of The False Claims Act
The number of qui tam suits rose from 30 in 1987, to 300 to 400 a year from 2000 to 2009, to more than 700 for each of the last two years. The growing number of qui tam lawsuits filed since 2009 has led to increased recoveries, which exceeded $2 billion for the first time in fiscal year 2010, and has approached or exceeded $3 billion ever since. As recoveries increased, so have whistle blower awards. From January 2009 to the end of 2014, the government paid awards in excess of $2.47 billion.
“In strengthening and protecting the False Claims Act, Congress has given us the law enforcement tools that are so essential to guarding the treasury and deterring others from exploiting and misusing taxpayer dollars. We are grateful for their continued support.” – Acting Assistant Attorney General Branda.
Stopping Fraud In Mortage & Housing Industry
Fraud recoveries in the housing and mortgage industry ($3.1 billion) and in the health care industry ($2.3 billion) dominated the recoveries for fiscal year 2014
Qui Tam & Federal Procurement Programs
The government aggressively pursued fraud in government procurement and other federal programs. Significant recoveries included settlements with Hewlett-Packard and Boeing. Hewlett-Packard paid $32.5 million to resolve claims involving a contract for IT products and services with the U.S. Postal Service.
Boeing paid $23 million to settle alleged false claims for labor on maintenance contracts for the C-17 Globemaster aircraft with the U.S. Air Force. In addition, the government filed lawsuits against a number of government contractors:
- DRS Technical Services, Inc. (agreed to pay $13.7 million to settle allegations that it violated the False Claims Act)
- Kellogg, Brown & Root (the government alleged that KBR employees took kickbacks from two subcontractors in return for favorable treatment in the award and performance of numerous subcontracts for maintenance, transportation and other services in Iraq)
- CA Inc. (the government alleged that CA knowingly overcharged the government for software licenses and maintenance)
- BNP Paribas ($80 million judgment – the government alleged that the bank knowingly entered into a scheme to defraud the Supplier Credit Guarantee Program).
Growing Whistle Blower Judgments
In other recent FCA news, on October 20, 2014, a jury awarded a $175 million judgment, which has the potential to rise to a stunning $525 million with the application of treble damages, against Trinity Industries, Inc. for making and failing to disclose changes to highway guardrails that it sold the government.
As a result, the whistle blower in that case could receive up to $157.5 million if awarded the maximum share afforded to whistle blowers under the FCA, which is 30 percent of total damages. U.S. ex rel. Harman v. Trinity Industries, Inc., et al., No. 2:12-00089 (E.D.Tex. Oct. 20, 2014).