In some cases involving the False Claims Act (“FCA”), extensive discovery requests, procedural strategy and legal maneuvering cause unnecessary delays often resulting in years of litigation. While this is not necessary the norm in every FCA case, it is certainly true in the government’s FCA case against Science International Applications Corporation, which has been lingering for over nine years in the federal court system. Fortunately, a federal judge late last month refused to grant the defendant’s extensive supplemental discovery motion and allowed for a limited-scope extension of time to gather specific discovery documents. This decision, handed down by the federal District Court for the District of Columbia, came on the heels of a decision over the summer overruling both parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment.
Claims of Bias and Unfair Dealing
The FCA applies to any contract between the U.S. government and a private contractor. Contractors are required to abide by the provisions of the contract and may only present invoices for payment pertaining to work performed pursuant to the contract. Any conduct by a private contractor running afoul of contract provisions is not eligible for reimbursement and, if paid, could be reclaimed under the FCA (along with treble damages).
The case against SAIC, which was filed in 2004, involved serious allegations of biased relationships between SAIC and certain international companies with a potential adverse interest to the United States. Within the contract between the government and SAIC is a provision prohibiting SAIC to work with other companies on the project that may present a conflict of interest for the government, known as an organizational conflict of interest (OCI) clause. These provisions are common in contracts with the U.S. government and allow it to file a cause of action against any contractor engaging in biased behavior. With regard to the situation involving SAIC, the government alleges in its complaint that the company engaged “in relationships with organizations that created an appearance of bias in the technical assistance and support it provided the [Nuclear Regulatory Counsel].” Specifically, the government disapproved of SAIC’s consultations with British Nuclear Fuels and Bechtel Jacobs Corp. The government, in its complaint, stated SAIC’s “relationship with British Nuclear created a potential conflict because the project involved the recycling and release of radioactive materials that would become subject to NRC regulation after leaving the DOE facility and entering into interstate commerce….”
Complex Procedural History
The FCA case against SAIC was, at one time, resolved by a jury sitting in the D.C. Circuit court in favor of the government. The case was ultimately remandedto the district court, however, based on successful appeals against the jury instructions used in the case. After several motions and discovery requests, the Court recently granted the defendant’s request for discovery relating to the sole issue of whether, despite the government’s allegations of bias, it continued to use SAIC’s work products under the contract.
FCA cases are often heavily driven by elaborate discovery requests, including years’ worth of documents and other voluminous evidence. However, this should not dissuade you from coming forward as a whistleblower if you have original knowledge of fraud or misconduct against the government. For assistance with your case, contact a whistleblower attorney today.