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Wireless Carriers – Government Contracting Fraud ($138.7 million)

Constantine Cannon represented whistleblower OnTheGo Wireless, LLC, in state False Claims Act litigation against the four largest U.S. wireless carriers, AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and T-Mobile, that resulted in the recovery of $138.7 million for the states of California, Nevada, and other jurisdictions, including political subdivisions in those states.  The whistleblower, an industry expert but not an insider at any of the carriers, alleged that the carriers knowingly failed to comply with contractual promises to deliver service “at the lowest cost available,” and provide rate plan “optimization” reports each quarter.  The contracts in questions were cooperative purchasing contracts that allowed different government entities to purchase under the terms and conditions of a master contract negotiated by a lead government agency.  For the carriers, becoming providers under the cooperative purchasing agreements gave them access to a multi-billion dollar market and, eager to have that access, the carriers agreed to provide rate plan optimization, but then, according to the whistleblower, failed to provide it.  The contracts were long-standing and the terms highly specialized.  And, many government agencies agreed to purchase under the contracts based solely on the fact they were put together by the Western States Contracting Alliance (“WSCA”).  This created an opportunity, OnTheGo alleged, that the carriers knowingly exploited to breach their promise to deliver low cost service and rate plan optimization, resulting in hundreds of millions of overcharges to government entities.  Over 30 California political subdivisions intervened in the California action and were also represented by Constantine Cannon; the State of Nevada intervened in the Nevada action. Plaintiffs ultimately recovered $138.7 million, and the whistleblower received a relator share of nearly 40%.  See Press Release and Whistleblower Insider for more.

Unitrans International Inc., Anham FZCO, et al. — Government Contract Fraud ($45 million)

Our attorneys represented Rory Maxwell, John Bush, and Supreme Foodservice GmbH in a qui tam action under the False Claims Act against Unitrans International Inc., a privately held Virginia defense contracting company, and Anham FZCO, an associated Dubai Free Zone company, for making false certifications of compliance with the U.S. sanctions regime against Iran to induce the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency and the U.S. Army to award Anham wartime contracts to provide food and transportation to U.S. troops.  Our whistleblower clients also alleged Anham knowingly and falsely represented construction progress on its Bagram warehouse in related bid proposals to the government.  In December 2019, Unitrans agreed to pay $45 million to resolve criminal and civil allegations related to this alleged misconduct, which includes $27 million to resolve our whistleblower clients’ False Claims Act allegations.  Read more about the case at the Department of Justice website here and in The Washington Post here.

Cisco Systems, Inc. – Government Contract Fraud/Non-Conforming Product ($8.6 million)

Constantine Cannon represented whistleblower James Glenn against Cisco in the first cybersecurity whistleblower case ever successfully resolved under the False Claims Act. Cisco Systems, Inc. agreed to an $8.6 million settlement to resolve allegations it knowingly sold vulnerable video surveillance software to federal, state and local government agencies, exposing government systems to the risk of unauthorized access and the manipulation of vital information. The whistleblower, who worked in Europe for a Cisco partner, had reported critical security vulnerabilities in the software to Cisco, but Cisco had continued to sell the technology to government entities, including the District of Columbia and 15 states, despite the fact that the software failed to comply with FAR procurement standards that require basic cybersecurity controls, including those set forth by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.  Read more: Press Release; Whistleblower Insider

Hyundai Oilbank Co., S-Oil Corporation, et al — Government Contract Fraud/Bid-Rigging ($363 million)

A team of our whistleblower attorneys led the representation of an anonymous whistleblower who provided extensive assistance to the U.S. government in its criminal and civil cases against several Korean oil and transportation companies, for their roles in a conspiracy to artificially inflate prices on fuel contracts for U.S. military bases in South Korea. In November 2018, SK Energy Co. Ltd., GS Caltex Corporation, and Hanjin Transportation Co. Ltd. collectively agreed to pay $154 million, to resolve the False Claims Act allegations brought by Constantine Cannon’s client, and an additional $82 million in criminal fines for their involvement in the conspiracy the whistleblower exposed. And in March 2019, the Department of Justice announced that two additional companies, Hyundai Oilbank Co. Ltd and S-Oil Corporation, would pay $75 million in criminal fines and $52 million to resolve these same False Claims Act and antitrust violations. This brings the settlement totals to $363 million and is the largest False Claims Act antitrust recovery as well as the largest False Claims Act settlement involving bid-rigging to date. Read more here.

Roof Systems of Maine – Government Contracting Fraud/Noncompliance with contract requirements ($439,500).

Two of our whistleblower attorneys led the representation of Brian Emery, an experienced roofer and former subcontractor to Roof Systems of Maine. Mr. Emery brought a qui tam action under the False Claims Act against Roof Systems of Maine alleging the company defrauded the government by violating contract requirements and industry standards in roofing and siding work done on behalf of the Departments of the Army and Navy, and the National Guard Bureau. According to the complaint, Roof Systems systematically used inferior products and improper installation techniques at three building sites along the Maine coast. The government joined the case, and in 2016, Roof Systems paid $439,500 to settle the case. Mr. Emery received a whistleblower award of $79,110. See Morning Sentinel for more.

Office Depot — Government Contracting Fraud/Best Pricing ($68.5 million).

One of our whistleblower attorneys led the representation of David Sherwin, a former business manager at Office Depot. Mr. Sherwin brought a qui tam action under the False Claims Act against Office Depot alleging the company overcharged over one thousand California public agencies, including schools, for office supplies. According to the complaint, Office Depot promised its public agency customers Office Depot’s “best” pricing when in fact it charged them millions of dollars more than they would have paid under other, more favorable Office Depot contracts. In addition to representing Mr. Sherwin, one of our attorneys also represented numerous public agencies that joined the case. Office Depot ultimately settled the case for $68.5 million, and Mr. Sherwin’s estate received a whistleblower award of $23 million. See LA Daily News for more.

Ocean Carriers — Government Contracting Fraud/Prohibited Charges.

Two of our whistleblower attorneys led the representation of a whistleblower who brought a qui tam action under the False Claims Act against two ocean carriers alleging they included in their government invoices charges specifically disallowed under the government contract. The ocean carriers did not have direct contracts with the government and submitted their invoices to parties who in turn presented them to the Department of Defense. Although the government declined to intervene because of uncertainties created by the lack of direct interaction between the defendants and the United States, our whistleblower lawyers pressed ahead, defeating multiple motions to dismiss and aggressively moving forward with discovery. The action settled with both defendants, and the whistleblower was awarded 28% of the government’s recovery. See Pacific Business News and Ship and Bunker News for more.

JM Eagle — Government Contracting Fraud/Noncompliance with Industry Standards ($22.5 million).

Two of our whistleblower attorneys led the representation of whistleblower John Hendrix, a former engineer at JM Eagle, as well as dozens of public agencies, in a two-month jury trial in Los Angeles against JM Eagle, the largest PVC pipe maker in the world. The jury returned a 50-page verdict finding that, over a ten-year period, JM Eagle had falsely represented its compliance with industry standards related to long term strength and durability of its PVC pipe. The pipe is buried deep underground in hundreds of municipalities around the nation. The damages phase of the case has not yet been held. However, a co-defendant in the case, Formosa Plastics, paid $22.5 million to settle its own potential liability, and Mr. Hendrix received a whistleblower reward from that settlement. See NY Times and Corporate Crime Reporter for more.

ATK — Government Contracting Fraud/Defective Product ($37 million).

One of our whistleblower attorneys led the representation of Kendall Dye, an engineer with what was formerly ATK Thiokol and is now ATK Launch Systems, who brought a qui tam action under the False Claims Act against ATK for selling defective flares to the United States military. According to the complaint, company testing revealed the flares could accidentally ignite if dropped from a height of as little as 11 inches. The flares burn at thousands of degrees, and are capable of burning through the hull of a ship, creating a significant safety risk. The government joined Mr. Dye’s case, and ATK ultimately settled for $37 million, with Mr. Dye receiving a whistleblower reward of $9 million. See NY Times for more.

Northrop Grumman — Government Contracting Fraud/Failure to Test ($12.5 million).

One of our whistleblower attorneys led the representation of Allen Davis, a former quality assurance manager at Northrop’s Navigation Systems Division facility in Salt Lake City, who brought a qui tam action under the False Claims Act, alleging the defense contractor failed to test properly certain commercial parts it supplied for navigation systems in warplanes, submarines and space equipment. Northrop ultimately settled the case for $12.5 million with Mr. Davis receiving a portion of that amount as a whistleblower award. See Reuters for more.
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