by Brian Mahany
False claims act cases that bring in tens of millions of dollars are relatively common these days. Apart from the huge payday earned by the whistleblower, cases of this size don’t usually generate much interest. Last week’s settlement between the Department of Justice and the Bill Harbert International Corporation is different. The case has been pending for 17 years and the underlying conduct took place almost 30 years ago!
According to published reports, Harbert and other companies rigged bids for publicly financed construction contracts in Egypt beginning in the 1980’s. Although the work was performed in Egypt, the money came from the U.S. Agency for International Development. Ultimately a jury found that the companies involved caused $30 million in damages to taxpayers. Because the false claims act permits treble damages, the award was increased to $90 million.
After a lengthy appeal, a appellate court reversed the award in part. That started another round of legal wrangling that ultimately resulted in last week’s settlement for $47 million.
There is no word on how much the whistleblower who came forward and got the case started will be paid. Typically, whistleblowers (called “relators”) receive 20% of the money collected by the government. Receiving $10 million for coming forward and doing the right thing is not a bad payday by anyone’s standards.
False claims act cases come in all different types. They include bid rigging (this case) false or double billing to Medicare, defective products sold to the government and certifying bad loans to HUD.
If you know of someone who has engaged in bid rigging or other illegal conduct, give us a call. We represent whistleblowers and help them get their share of an award.
Mahany & Ertl – America’s Fraud Lawyers. Offices in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Detroit, Michigan; Portland, Maine & Minneapolis, Minnesota. Services available in most jurisdictions.