Bass, Berry & Sims PLC announces the launch of its new blog, Inside the FCA, which will provide ongoing updates related to the False Claims Act (FCA), including insight on the latest legal decisions, regulatory developments and FCA settlements affecting federal programs and government contractors. Inside the FCA focuses on providing timely updates for

In a February 4, 2016, decision, United States ex rel. Wall v. Circle C. Construction, LLC, the Sixth Circuit summarily rejected the government’s assertion that the measure of damages in a False Claims Act (FCA) suit involving a violation of prevailing wage rate requirements was the total amount paid for the work.  The Sixth Circuit’s rejection of the “total contract value” theory of damages in the prevailing wage rate context is a welcome development for FCA defendants who are faced with increasingly creative damages theories asserted by the government and the relator’s bar.

Circle C’s Army Contract

For a case that involved a relatively minor non-compliance with the prevailing wage rate requirements applicable to federal construction contracts, the Circle C. Construction case has a long history.  Circle C entered into a contract to construct warehouses at the U.S. Army base at Fort Campbell, located in Kentucky and Tennessee.  Pursuant to the Davis-Bacon Act, Circle C was required to pay electrical workers at least $19.19 per hour, plus a fringe benefit rate of $3.94 per hour.  Circle C was also required to submit certified payroll for itself and its subcontractors.

Continue Reading DOJ’s “Fairyland Damages” Calculation Rejected in Prevailing Wage Rate False Claims Act Case

Last month, the Sixth Circuit affirmed sanctions imposed by a district court against a relator and his counsel for bringing a frivolous False Claims Act (FCA) action. The ruling in United States ex rel. Jacobs v. Lambda Research, Inc., No. 14-3705, 2015 WL 1948247 (6th Cir. May 1, 2015) is a positive development for companies that have faced an increase in FCA actions in recent years. It also illustrates the use of a sanctions provision that is specific to FCA claims.

Lambda Research is a small business that contracts with the United States Navy to strengthen the metal components of warplanes. Terry Jacobs, the individual who brought the FCA case, worked for Lambda for two years before he left the company to become vice president of a competitor business, Ecoroll Corporation.

Lambda thereafter sued Jacobs in state court, alleging that Jacobs stole Lambda’s trade secrets and gave them to Ecoroll. A jury found Jacobs liable and awarded Lambda $8 million in damages. Additionally, the state court found that Jacobs misappropriated trade secrets willfully, and ordered him to pay Lambda $1.4 million in attorney’s fees.

Continue Reading Relators Beware – Sanctions Upheld for “Vexatious” False Claims Act Suit

Employee severance packages and settlement agreements often include a broad waiver of any claims, known or an unknown, which an employee may have against the company.  Although such broad pre-filing releases are highly recommended, companies doing business with the government should be cautioned that these waivers do not always protect against False Claims Act (“FCA”) litigation.  A line of federal cases has established that these so-called “pre-filing releases” are sometimes unenforceable against suits filed by whistleblowers, or qui tam actions, for public policy reasons.

Pre-filing releases bar qui tam actions only if the government was already aware of the fraudulent conduct that forms the basis for the employee’s allegations.  The Ninth Circuit in an early case held that enforcing such a waiver where the government was not aware of the fraud until the filing of a qui tam complaint would be against public policy.  U.S. ex rel. Green v. Northrop Corp., 59 F.3d 953 (9th Cir. 1995).  The court noted that the FCA’s qui tam provisions are meant to incentivize whistleblowers to come forward with information that the government would not otherwise be able to obtain.  Thus, when the government first learns about alleged fraud from a whistleblower complaint, the pre-filing release will not be enforced.  This view is shared by the Fourth and Tenth Circuits.  See U.S. ex rel. Radcliffe v. Perdue Pharma, L.P., 600 F.3d 319 (4th Cir. 2010); U.S. ex rel. Ritchie v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 558 F.3d 1161 (10th Cir. 2009).

Continue Reading Enforceability of Employee Releases on Qui Tam Actions

United Parcel Service Inc.’s (“UPS”) recent settlement with the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) to resolve allegations that it submitted false claims to the federal government to conceal its failure to timely deliver packages serves as a reminder of the range of conduct that can lead to False Claims Act (“FCA”) liability for not satisfying the

Despite fulfilling its contractual obligations and voluntarily disclosing its possible oversight, nLight Photonic, Inc. (“nLight”), a Washington-based small business, was pushed to a $420,000 settlement with the Department of Justice to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by knowingly submitting false certifications regarding its eligibility for contracts and grants under the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (“SBA”) Small Business Innovation Research (“SBIR”) program.

The SBIR program was created to encourage U.S. small businesses to conduct federal research & development that may also serve the community at-large. To be eligible for SBIR funds, a company must satisfy several conditions, including:

1. Having a U.S. place of business;
2. Being majority owned and controlled by individuals that are U.S. citizens (or permanent residents) or by another entity meeting this requirement; and
3. Employing fewer than 500 employees.


Continue Reading Small Business Reaches Settlement to Resolve Allegations it Falsely Certified Compliance with SBIR Program

On April 6, 2015, the Sixth Circuit delivered a costly blow to the United States government to the tune of $657 million when it issued its opinion in United States v. United Technologies Corporation and remanded the case back to the district court to review the damages award, yet again.

This was the second time that the Sixth Circuit heard arguments deriving from the United States False Claims Act case against Pratt & Whitney (“Pratt”), now owned by United Technologies, for false statements the company made when competing against GE Aircraft for contracts to build F-15 and F-16 jet engines. In 1983, in an attempt to outbid GE Aircraft and make it hard for the government to issue a split-award contract, Pratt misstated its projected costs and certified that the company’s bid included its “best estimates and/or actual costs.” After uncovering Pratt’s overstated costs projections, the government filed both an administrative action against the company in the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals (“ASBCA”) under the Truth in Negotiations Act and a lawsuit in district court alleging violations of the False Claims Act.

Continue Reading United Technologies is Saved from $657 million False Claims Act Verdict by the Sixth Circuit

A Maryland-based construction company required to pay “prevailing wages” under a Federal government contract recently settled for $400,000 claims that it had violated the False Claims Act (“FCA”) by failing to properly supervise lower-level contractors in the payment of prevailing wages to their workers. The case serves as a reminder that government contractors who fail to ensure compliance with wage requirements – whether under the Davis-Bacon Act (“DBA”), Service Contract Act (“SCA”), or Walsh-Healy Public Contracts Act (“PCA”) – can face significant liability. It also highlights the ongoing expansion of the federal government’s battle against procurement fraud.

Many Government Contractors Are Subject to a Prevailing Wage Rate Requirement

Most government contractors who provide services; do construction, alteration or repair work on public buildings; or manufacture certain goods are subject to a prevailing wage requirement. Those requirements include geographically determined wage rates and fringe benefit rates set by the Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) for various labor classifications. Where a government contract incorporates such a requirement, government contractors, including their subcontractors, are required to pay wages at least as high as the prevailing wage rates.

Continue Reading The Growing Risks of Non-Compliance with Wage Rate Determinations

We recently authored an article on False Claims Act (FCA) enforcement actions brought against pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers during the past year. In the article, we analyzed the recent settlements for Ansun Biopharma, Inc. (formerly known as NexBio, Inc.); Smith & Nephew, Inc.; McKesson Corporation; and Stryker Corporation and Alliant Enterprises.

The article, “