Federal Money for Lobbying -- Another False Certification False Claims Act Case
November 13, 2012
By: Lindsay Simmons
Last week the United States intervened in a False Claims Act lawsuit against Fluor Corporation. The case, filed by a whistleblower – a former Fluor employee – is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, United States ex rel. Rambo v. Fluor Hanford, LLC , No. CV-11-5037 (E.D. Wash. filed Feb. 23, 2011). The False Claims Act authorizes private parties to sue on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery.
Fluor provides a variety of services to the Federal Government. According to the allegations in the complaint, Fluor had a prime contract with the Department of Energy (DOE) to provide services at the
Hanford Nuclear Site, including management and operation of a federally-funded facility for training Hanford workers, first responders and law enforcement personnel. The whistleblower alleges that in order to secure this contract Fluor certified that it would not use federal funds for lobbying activities. However, Fluor then proceeded, according to the complaint, to ignore this restriction and use DOE funding for lobbying activities.
What kind of lobbying activities? Fluor allegedly used DOE funds to hire and pay two firms to lobby members of Congress and executive branch agencies to continue funding for Fluor’s Hanford contract with DOE.
“The taxpayer money Congress allocated for this program was for training federal emergency response personnel and first responders, not to lobby Congress and others for more funding,” said Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. “When public funds are misused, as alleged in this case, the Justice Department will work to restore them to the Treasury.” Click here to read the Justice Department’s full statement.
This is just the latest in what is now a long series of False Claims Act cases based upon alleged false certifications by federal contractors. What is the take away for contractors? Make certain your employees understand each and every certification – including those that may be “implied”—in your contracts, and that they abide by them.
Lindsay Simmons is the attorney responsible for the content of this article.