The federal government spends billions of dollars each year on goods and services. Purchasing laws mandate preference for goods made in America and for blind made goods. According to Senator Charles Schumer, many of the items on the General Service Administration’s purchasing website are mislabeled. If true, there will be plenty of opportunities for whistleblower awards.
A series of federal laws require or give a purchasing preference to goods “made in America.” Sen. Schumer says some scam artists are selling foreign made goods and mislabeling them as American made.
If you wondering if this is simply some technical violation, it isn’t. When a vendor passes off cheap foreign goods as American made, that vendor has a tremendous competitive advantage over rivals that follow the law. Legitimate companies can’t compete and suddenly find themselves on an uneven playing field.
American jobs are also threatened when companies don’t buy made in America products. Taxpayers suffer, honest vendors suffer, hard working American workers suffer. The only folks making money are the ones who are breaking the law.
The Buy American Act has been on the books since 1933.Passed during the Great Depression, the law seeks to promote American jobs and industry.
Made in America violations are often often evidence of violations of the False Claims Act. The latter law dates back to 1863 and the Civil War. What makes the False Claims Act unique is its ability to pay huge awards to whistleblowers.
Vendors who mislabel their products are probably violating the False Claims Act. Ditto for vendors who mislabel their cheap imports as American made on the GSA Advantage website.
The GSA has begun reviewing Senator Schumer’s allegations. The government purchases so many things, however, that auditing every product the GSA sells is virtually impossible.
Schumer originally became involved when one one of his constituents complained about unfair competition. Sherrill Manufacturing is a New York company that produces flatware – knives, forks and spoons. Their Liberty line is made in the United States but they knew some of their competitors were mislabeling cheaper imported flatware and calling it made in America.
In the words of Senator Schumer, “It was flat wrong for the GSA to allow these other companies to falsely claim they were ‘Made in America’ and putting a stop to that lie will help put Sherrill on a level playing field and help protect the valuable jobs there. But there is more work to be done.”
Since Sen. Schumer complained in January, we know that the GSA has removed just 11 products from its purchasing website. In our belief, however, there are thousands more.
Under the federal False Claims Act, a whistleblower with inside information about fraud involving a federal funds or programs can bring an action in the name of the government. If the government ultimately nets a recovery, the whistleblower gets between 15% and 30% of that recovery.
In 2014, the federal government paid out over $435 million in whistleblower awards. Recently we helped a former employee of a Wisconsin based manufacturing company that got caught mislabeling Chinese steel as made in America. The steel components were used in government building projects (federal courthouse, Miami International Airport Intermodal Facility and a VA Hospital facility).
If you have inside information about foreign made products being mislabeled and sold to the government or used in government construction projects, call us. Depending on the product, there may even be safety issues at stake. No one will get physically injured by a spoon mislabeled as American made but the stakes are much higher when the product is structural steel used in buildings and bridges.
Our whistleblower clients have recovered over $100,000,000 in award monies. There is plenty more available, however. Save a job, insure taxpayers get their money’s worth and earn an award. Depending on the product, you may even save a life.
Have information about Buy American Act violations? Give us a call. For more information, contact attorney Brian Mahany at or by telephone at (414) 704-6731 (direct). All inquiries are kept strictly confidential.
MahanyLaw – America’s Whistleblower Lawyers