Archive for military-contractors
Part of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 provided a fund for the Securities and Exchange Commission to reward whistleblowers. The SEC is able to anonymously reward whistleblowers for information that leads to a penalty greater than $1 million. The results for the second year of the program announced that its biggest success happened this past October when it awarded $14 million.
The total anonymity of the program makes it impossible to uncover who the whistleblower is or the violations they reported.
In total, the program paid $14.8 million to whistleblowers this year and received 3,238 tips. The fund has $439 million in reserve for future whistleblowers. The three biggest states for domestic tips were California, New York and Florida. The biggest category of whistleblower tips is financial disclosures and reporting.
In another type of whistleblower action, Doyle Raizner LLP is currently in discovery on a qui tam case, United States of America ex rel. Eric Uhlig v. Fluor Corp; Fluor Gover. The case involves allegations that a military contractor improperly billed the federal government for electrical work in Afghanistan. Fluor’s contract required it to employ experienced, professional electricians. Evidence suggested that the company employed non-experienced, non-qualified workers to carry out electrical repairs and construction, billing the government for “qualified” workers. Not only did this lead to payments by the taxpayers for unqualified work, it also potentially endangered American and Coalition troops and civilian workers in the base facilities.
If you or someone you know is aware of fraudulent activity being conducted, please contact the attorneys at Doyle Raizner.
The scope of whistleblower protection and the question of whether legal protections extend to employees of auditors, law firms and other advisers to publicly traded companies were reviewed this week by the Supreme Court. The court is attempting to sort out the 2002 law in relation to two mutual-fund industry workers who lost their jobs after reporting fraud.
The 2002 law, named Sarbanes-Oxley Act or SOX after the sponsoring members of Congress, was enacted to prevent another Enron-type catastrophe. The dispute centers on a provision that bars publicly traded companies, their contractors and subcontractors from discriminating against an “employee” who reports fraud or a violation of securities regulations. The central question lies in the application of the law to employees of publicly traded companies only, or whether the law also extends to contractors of these publicly traded entities. In this case, the publicly traded mutual funds were managed by a privately held management firm which employed the plaintiffs.
The justices are expected to deliver their decision on the broad or narrow scope of the law by July 2014.
A similar type of whistleblower law applies qui tam cases. Qui tam refers to laws that allow a private individual with knowledge of fraud against the federal government to blow the whistle and assist the government in the prosecution of the corporation committing the fraud. A qui tam plaintiff acts as a “private attorney general” in investigating and pursuing litigation against a corporation that commits fraud on the government. A successful whistleblower may receive a portion of damages recovered on behalf of the federal government.
Doyle Raizner LLP is currently taking depositions in a qui tam case, United States of America ex rel. Eric Uhlig v. Fluor Corp; Fluor Gover. The case involves allegations that a military contractor improperly billed the federal government for electrical work in Afghanistan. Fluor’s contract required it to employ experienced, professional electricians. Evidence suggested that the company
The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed KBR’s interlocutory appeal in McManaway, et al, v KBR, Inc.,et al as premature until a determination of controlling law has been made. In the appeal, KBR contended the case should be dismissed as barred under the political question doctrine and preempted by the combatant-activities exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The appeal was dismissed without prejudice. Click here to read the decision.
McManaway, et al, v KBR, Inc.,et al involves dozens of Indiana, West Virginia, South Carolina, and British veterans. The plaintiffs have sued the Houston-based military contractor over health problems they blame on exposure to hexavalent chromium dust, a carcinogenic orange-yellow powder used to fight corrosion in water pipes. The troops were guarding KBR workers as they tried to restore water treatment facilities at the Qarmat Ali water treatment site.
United States District Judge Vanessa Gilmore is presiding over the case in the Southern District of Texas. Judge Gilmore denied the immunity defense last year. After denying KBR’s immunity motions, the court permitted the immunity defense decision to go on interlocutory appeal to the Fifth Circuit in September 2012. In November 2012, a decision was made by a jury in Oregon in Bixby, et al, v KBR, Inc., et al, a case involving the same circumstances as McManaway, et al, v KBR, Inc.,et al, determining KBR was negligent and awarded the veterans $85 million. The court later affirmed the jury decision in the amount of $81 million.
At this time, Judge Gilmore will decide on when and how to proceed to trial for the Texas cases. It is anticipated that KBR will ask for reconsideration by the Court of Appeals.
Oral argument is underway in Sergeant Mark McManaway et al. v. KBR Inc., et al before the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The court will consider KBR’s bid for blanket immunity for acts of misconduct committed during their work in Iraq and that resulted in a toxic contamination to hundreds of United States and British soldiers. Just two weeks before trial was set to begin in federal court in Houston, U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore denied KBR’s immunity motions and the issue was appealed. Since then, a bellwether group of twelve soldier’s claims went to trial in federal court in Oregon, and resulted in a judgment of $81 million against KBR. Bloomberg News profiled the case in an article this morning, and identified the issues to be addressed by the Fifth Circuit panel. A recording of the oral argument is expected to be available later today or tomorrow [http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/OralArgumentRecordings.aspx].
Salon.com published a story addressing the dangerous work conditions millions of Americans endure every day. The article states the government documents 4,500 workplace deaths every year at a cost of $250 billion. Texas hosts “the nation’s highest number of workplace fatalities”.
West, Texas being the location of a catastrophic explosion is not happenstance. Texas promotes “antipathy toward regulations” and does not require workers compensation insurance be carried by businesses operating within the state. According to the New York Times, Texas has “more than three times the number of accidents, four times the number of injuries and deaths, and 300 times the property damage costs” as Illinois. The fertilizer plant where the blast originated had not been inspected by OSHA since 1985.
The author of the article, David Sirota, attributes this lack of concern at the number of workers who die every year and the lack of reaction to “a deregulated economy whose laws are written by corporate interests”. He cites those corporate interests as the roadblock for safety regulation and enforcement who uses politicians and their campaigns to ensure they don’t spend additional dollars on making workplaces safer.
NPR released an article recently addressing the large number of worker accidents in Texas and the demographics of the employees. Many are undocumented immigrants and exploited by companies seeking cheap, tax-free labor. This contributes to a corporate environment expecting optimized profits while maintaining low labor costs and the bare minimum safety regulations.
Doyle Raizner has represented clients and their families over the years that have been paralyzed, maimed, and killed as a result of poor workplace conditions. We stand behind them in their fight against corporate entities whose greed converts a workplace death to a cost of doing business.
Federal Times has reported on the mounting tensions between contractor KBR Inc. and the US Army over an ultimatum to provide a firm, fixed price on remaining work to close out the $38 billion Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) III.
LOGCAP III is the 12-year-old logistics contract that has supported US military logistics operations in Iraq. The Army awarded the contract in 2001 and issued 160 tasks for everything from dining services to delivery of housing for civilian and military personnel. The original contract was considered a “cost plus” contract, which means KBR was paid its costs plus a guaranteed profit; the Army seeks to revise the pricing terms on the final work to be done on the contract to be firm, fixed pricing. KBR filed a lawsuit in response seeking to keep the “cost plus” nature of the contract.
The dispute started in July 2012, at that time the Army decided contract closeout activities must be performed on a fixed-price basis meaning KBR would need to provide a fixed dollar figure for the remaining work and absorb any excess costs. KBR responded they were unwilling to accept that due to the lack of scope or duration of work that needs to be completed.
KBR filed a case with the Government Accountability Office that was thrown out on jurisdictional grounds. The case was refiled in the US Court of Federal Claims and accused the Army of using the wrong type of contract, acting in bad faith and violating procurement regulations.
In emails submitted as part of the lawsuit, Army contracting officer Robert Egan told KBR he would not “enter further communication exchanges with” KBR’s contract team until he saw the FFP deliverable. KBR responded they were unwilling to accept such a proposal. KBR responded to Federal Times with a statement noting the company enjoys “frank, open and continuous communications with the Army.”
KBR has been paid enormous amounts for well
Doyle Raizner has filed suit against DynCorp International on behalf of an injured military contractor serving in Afghanistan. The plaintiff was injured when an employee of DynCorp made an unsafe and improper U-turn along a main route of Camp Davis and rammed into a portable laundry container in which she was stationed.
DynCorp International identifies itself as a “global government services provider in support of U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives.” The company also claims to “provide expertly conceived and professionally executed services.” As confirmed by the subsequent investigation, the collision was caused by the inattentive driving of DynCorp’s employee and was listed as drug/alcohol related. The collision resulted in serious injuries to the plaintiff which required medical treatment in the past and will require future medical care.
DynCorp’s acts constitute negligence in that the company, acting through its employee, failed to act in a reasonably prudent manner and violated laws and statutes of the United States. The company also acted in a way that constitutes gross negligence. DynCorp had knowledge of the risk involved at the time of the occurrences and proceeded with conscious indifference to the rights, safety and welfare of others resulting in the injury of the plaintiff.
Doyle Raizner stands behind their client in the fight against a military service provider more interested in profits than honoring an obligation to safety.
One of several motions heard by Judge Papak last month in Oregon Federal Court involved yet another attempt to lash out at the attorneys who proudly represent the veterans of Qarmat Ali. A jury awarded a bellwether group of twelve of the 162 veterans a total $85.2 million in November for KBR’s misconduct in exposing the veterans to sodium dichromate. With an award of nearly $7.1 million for each veteran, KBR’s own potential financial exposure to the remaining Veterans exceeds $1 billion if the remaining verdicts remain consistent with the bellwether trial verdict. Click here to read a synopsis of that trial and verdict.
Having lost the trial in front of an Oregon jury, KBR and its counsel have continued to try and shift blame for misconduct everywhere but towards their own actions. The topic at the center of the latest legal wrangling brought on by KBR’s attorneys concerns the limited ‘gag order’, generally restricting the parties’ rights to comment to the verdict. The order was effective throughout the trial, partially lifted after the verdict, and then fully lifted on December 19, 2012.
KBR complained about a post-trial email communication featuring plaintiffs’ attorney Mike Doyle. The email contained an embedded video narrated by Doyle and referenced the jury verdict. KBR argued the video violated the limited ‘gag order’. The email was distributed by Trial Guides, a commercial publisher of various legal guides and commentaries, and a link to the video can be found here.
Judge Papak rejected KBR’s latest attacks, confirming that the “statements were clearly not in violation of the previously imposed restrictive order”, and the communication “disclosed no information material to the parties’ dispute not already in the public record.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs has released information pertaining to the registries for chromium exposure at Qarmat Ali water treatment facility. The registry is important for continued health monitoring for veterans who may served at Qarmat Ali and have current health conditions or may develop conditions in the future.
Veterans who served at Qarmat Ali and the Gulf War should also participate in the Gulf War registry. Veterans who participate in the program will receive an initial exam, chest X-ray and pulmonary function test. The results will be tracked in the VA’s Gulf War Registry.
Important points about registry health exams:
Free to eligible Veterans and no co-payment
Not a disability compensation exam or required for other VA benefits
Enrollment in VA’s health care system not necessary
Based on Veterans’ recollection of service, not on their military records
Veterans can receive additional registry exams, if new problems develop
Veterans should contact their local program manager to make an appointment to enroll In the VA Qarmat Ali Medical Surveillance Program. Click here for a team locator.
We encourage all veterans who served at Qarmat Ali to join these registries. A burn pit registry is also being created. The registry was part of an improvement act signed on January 10, 2013, and gives the VA one year from signing to create the burn pit registry. We will continue to share updates as they develop.
A former Veterans Affairs researcher testified before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs this week about the organization’s efforts to minimize research that supports claims of Gulf War Illness and illness from burn pit exposure.
Steven Coughlin was an epidemiologist in the VA’s public health department until he resigned over a request to retract his claims concerning the concealed information and admit he had made a mistake. Coughlin also said “if the studies produce results that do not support the office of public health’s unwritten policy, they do not release them. “ He also testified about a panel of outside experts hired to study neurological connections to Gulf War illness for the Institute of Medicine. Coughlin maintains the panel was stacked in favor of those who believe Gulf War illness is psychological rather than neurological. Coughlin added “anything that supports the position that Gulf War illness is a neurological condition is unlikely to ever be published.”
Coughlin’s allegations were countered by Victoria Davey, chief officer of VA’s office of public health and environmental hazards. Davey never directly addressed the accusations levied against the VA but talked about the “cutting-edge” research the VA has conducted.
Coughlin was backed by Lea Steele, a researcher at the Veterans Health Research Program at Baylor University who said the VA has not managed an effective program. Steele echoed Coughlin when she said “studies consistently show Gulf War illness is not due to war trauma.”
Steele referenced the panel Coughlin viewed as stacked in favor of Gulf War illness as a psychological illness. The panel studied veterans from the past 20 years rather than a segment of Gulf War veterans. The symptoms of this broad group were lumped together so that neither cause nor treatment for “chronic multisymptom illness” could be found. Steele likened this to “medical malpractice”.
A Gulf War veteran and appointed member of the Congressionally Directed Gulf War Illness Research Medical Program,