by Ben Vernia | November 24th, 2016
On November 23, the Department of Justice announced that four Department of Energy contractors had agreed to pay a combined $125 million to settle civil allegations, first raised by three whistleblowers, that the companies submitted false claims in connection with contracts at the Hanford nuclear site in Washington state. According to DOJ’s press release:
The Justice Department announced today that Bechtel National Inc., Bechtel Corp., URS Corp. (predecessor in interest to AECOM Global II LLC) and URS Energy and Construction Inc. (now known as AECOM Energy and Construction Inc.) have agreed to pay $125 million to resolve allegations under the False Claims Act that they made false statements and claims to the Department of Energy (DOE) by charging DOE for deficient nuclear quality materials, services, and testing that was provided at the Waste Treatment Plant (WTP) at DOE’s Hanford Site near Richland, Washington. The settlement also resolves allegations that Bechtel National Inc. and Bechtel Corp. improperly used federal contract funds to pay for a comprehensive, multi-year lobbying campaign of Congress and other federal officials for continued funding at the WTP. Bechtel Corp. and Bechtel National Inc. are Nevada corporations. URS Corp. is headquartered in California, and URS Energy & Construction Inc. is headquartered in Colorado.
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Between 2002 and the present, DOE has paid billions of dollars to the defendants to design and build the WTP, which will be used to treat dangerous radioactive wastes that are currently stored at DOE’s Hanford Site. The contract required materials, testing and services to meet certain nuclear quality standards. The United States alleged that the defendants violated the False Claims Act by charging the government the cost of complying with these standards when they failed to do so. In particular, the United States alleged that the defendants improperly billed the government for materials and services from vendors that did not meet quality control requirements, for piping and waste vessels that did not meet quality standards and for testing from vendors who did not have compliant quality programs. The United States also alleged that Bechtel National Inc. and Bechtel Corp. improperly claimed and received government funding for lobbying activities in violation of the Byrd Amendment, and applicable contractual and regulatory requirements, all of which prohibit the use of federal funds for lobbying activities.
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The Department of Justice stated that the amount the whistleblowers will receive has not yet been determined.