Last week, the Boeing Company agreed to pay the United States $18 million to settle allegations that it falsely charged the Government for labor under maintenance contracts it had with the Government for the C-17 Globemaster aircraft.
A former employee of Boeing brought this whistleblower complaint under the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act alleging that Boeing was charging the Government for time its mechanics spent on breaks and lunch, instead of working. Because the mechanics were not actually working on the aircraft at these times, the whistleblower alleged that the charges submitted by Boeing to the Air Force were fraudulent. Boeing agreed to settle these allegations for $18 million.
Like so many other False Claims Act cases involving fraudulent charges submitted by vendors who have contracts with the federal government, this whistleblower complaint was brought by a former employee who had inside knowledge of the allegedly fraudulent billing. Because this claim was properly documented and well-researched before it was submitted to the Government, and the Government eventually intervened (or joined in) the lawsuit, the whistleblower in this case will receive a percentage of the $18 million recovered by the Government.
Our firm has assisted a number of employees and former employees who work with businesses that have contracts to provide goods and services to the federal government. When these employees are asked to assist in the preparation of fraudulent billing statements or invoices, they are often put in a difficult position. They must either follow company orders and participate in the fraud, or refuse to engage in unlawful conduct and potentially lose their jobs.
Employees in this position, however, do have a way out and the chance to earn a substantial financial reward. If an employee or sub-contractor is aware that a business is charging the Government for goods or services that it has not provided, or are aware that the business has not fulfilled all of its contractual obligations, then the employee can pursue a whistleblower complaint and also be protected against any retaliation. In addition to protecting themselves from being involved in potentially illegal conduct, and helping prevent the fraudulent use of taxpayer money, a qualified whistleblower is also entitled to receive up to 30% of any amount recovered by the Government as a result of the whistleblower’s complaint.