In a recent False Claims Act settlement, the makers of military-grade batteries for use in Humvee vehicles agreed to settle claims each provided inferior batteries to the Department of Defense for a period spanning several years. The settlement resolves extensive allegations by a former employee-whistleblower, including the assertion that the sub-par batteries could have actually caused injury or death to American servicemen and women. The defendants, which include M.K. Battery, Inc., East Penn Manufacturing Company, NPC Robotics, Inc., BAE Systems, Inc., and BAE Systems Tactical Vehicle Systems LP., have not admitted any liability in the matter, which was originated by a former employee of M.K. Battery, Inc.
The alleged misconduct involving the aforementioned battery-makers began during the conflicts in Iraq and pertains to Humvee vehicles used in combat. According to the whistleblower, each of the defendants – all of whom hold contracts or sub-contracts with the Department of Defense – were tasked with manufacturing and providing certain batteries for use in the gun turrets of the vehicles, a highly-important component of the overall combat machine. The whistleblower alleges that the defendants consistently supplied the U.S. Army with batteries that were not designed to last as long as the batteries promised in the defense contract with the DOD.
The batteries in question were for use in the vehicle’s gun turret, which is a special weapon mount that serves the dual purpose of firing the gun while protecting the crew from projectiles aimed at the vehicle. The mount generally runs on energy provided by the engine; however, the battery back-ups are in place to allow the turrets to continue moving in the event the engine becomes inoperative. Allegedly, the defendants altered the manufacturing process of the batteries so significantly, the battery life was cut to about 50 percent of that which the DOD believed it was purchasing.
The whistleblower responsible for exposing the alleged fraud first alerted his employer – M.K. Battery. The employer not only refused to acknowledge his complaints, but fired him after the employee took his concerns directly to the DOD. In his complaint, the whistleblower alleged that cutting the battery life of combat Humvee gun turrets could place servicemen and woman at a significant risk when placed in the line of fire. In a statement by the whistleblower, he remarked, “I believe strongly that the lives of American servicemen and women were put at risk by the switch in batteries. It is a relief to finally resolve this issue and know that the substitute batteries are no longer being used.”
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If you are aware of possible fraud involving a contract with the Department of Defense, we encourage you to contact our whistleblower attorneys today. Defense contracting fraud is the sort of misconduct that historically led to the enactment of the False Claims Act, which was originally drafted in the Civil War era. To get started on your case, contact us today.